I think my four Christmas seasons at College came and went due to finals. Christmas was a blur, a single day to enjoy gifts, God and seafood. (My family has a traditional seafood Christmas dinner). This Christmas is different. While, I really don't think I got into Advent as much as my peers and the Sisters did, I did feel that certain warmth and joy that comes with the season.
Exhibit 1: I've never ever for as long as I can remember, gotten my grandmother something on my own. My family will get her a sweatshirt or a picture frame or a movie each Christmas. It isn't because I don't care, or don't love her. No, it is because she is 86 and she doesn't need/want anything. This year I originally got her a book on WWII, but then my mother had told me she wanted that book. My mother NEVER asks for anything for Christmas. I have no clue what to get her...ever. So I was stunned that she spoke up with interest in the book. I decided to give her the book and find something else for my grandmother. I went to Barnes and Noble and sure enough I found the PERFECT gift. "Philadelphia Then and Now." A book with pictures of Old Philly and present day Philly. I knew she would love this book with all its landmarks of her past. This is something she would read, enjoy and possibly cherish. I decided to use the other half of my Barnes and Noble gift card from my birthday to help pay for the present. The thing is, I didn't even think twice about it. "Christmas is about not being selfish" I thought to myself as I happily handed the remainder of my birthday present over to the cashier. I was too happy to get something my mother wanted AND something my grandmother would actually love.
Exhibit 2: I've been privileged to witness people being kind to others. One day I was in Dollar Tree and the woman in the checkout line behind me was crying. A man gently asked her if she was ok. She said "No...I'm sorry....I just recently lost my mother and this Christmas music is really screwing me up." As it turns out, the cashier lost her mother 10 years ago and she still felt like it was yesterday. AND the man had lost his mother 5 years ago. My friend and I couldn't express empathy but instead, expressed sympathy. My friend said "People who tell you that everything is going to be ok are full of shit." To which the woman started laughing. Then she began to cry some more and said "I'm sorry, this is so embarrassing. Now I'm crying because you all are being so nice to me." She left the store but not after all of us wished her a Happy Holidays. It really was one of those moments you watch in the movies.
Exhibit 3: At work I helped set up a Holiday Door Decorating Contest for the residents. I had seven participants and I asked three Sisters to be the judges. A winner on each floor would win a new watch. The contest was a huge success. Winners were chosen and the Sisters decided they would donate $10 for each contestant who did not win a prize. So everyone won! It was such a touching day. In fact, one of the winning doors had a letter to Santa. The first thing the letter asked for was "A house for Mommy..." Yes, the entire staff got chills. It was the sweetest, most innocent thing ever. I was pleased how everything turned out.
Today I also was given a gift card from a co-worker which is great because I'm broke. AND, another co-worker gave me her prized nativity with the instructions "when you look at this think of me." I wasn't expecting anything, not even the wonderful Christmas cards I've received so far this year.
The generosity is almost abundant. A few days ago I had to unexpectedly work a 12 hour day. I didn't have money for food and I was kind of worried about getting hungry. Another co-worker gave me $10 so I could get something for dinner. There really is something truly magical about the season.
I have also witnessed a 23 year old guy come to a holiday party for our residents, volunteer, and play Santa for the little kids. My friend Sarai bought me a Phillies Santa hat for all the nice things I do for her and with her. Strangers just seem happier and more friendly this time of year.
So in the spirit of Christmas I share this good news with you.
Until next time...