Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Another December is upon us. With family gatherings and end of year parties, many of us will be giving and receiving gifts. Thinking about this got me to wondering about the Christmas traditions that we all enjoy.
Gift giving is symbolic of the presentation of the gifts by the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus. In ancient Rome gift giving might have occurred near the winter solstice in December.
We are able to enjoy these traditions today along with many others. Some families make it a priority to give gifts to different charities or the numerous other opportunities that present themselves this time of year.
The smiles on the faces of those that receive our gifts warm our hearts and make the sacrifice worth it. Especially the excitement that children express as Christmas approaches.
But sometimes we have the unexpected happen in our lives that make it tough if not impossible to participate in the festivities. Loss of employment, illness or even the death of a loved one can make the holidays especially hard.
I’ve learned that for those who find opportunities to give year round to help out those in need are the happiest and well grounded people I know.
But a gracious and humble receiver can also find joy in the act of gift giving.
Many years ago, I received a call from my sister. My parents at the time were living with her and her husband. She informed me that the two of them would be leaving for a month or so on a trip and they needed someone to come stay with mom and dad. My mother at the time was suffering from an advance case of Parkinson’s disease. She needed help, especially in the morning when her medications had worn off. Her right arm would shake violently until she could get some medications in her system and then the tremors were more manageable. I agreed and I was able to clear my schedule and go there to help out.
I need to give you a little back ground on my mother. She was a very strong woman and thrived on doing things for herself and her family. She was a member of the office staff at the high school I attended. The kids that came to school late had to check in with her before going to class. . More than once I had someone tell me that you didn’t mess with my mom. She had the ability to see through just about every sob story that a teenager can come up with. You only tried to con my mother once. Everyone quickly came to respect and admire her.
One morning, while I was caring for my parents, my mother woke up and I helped her out of bed and into the living room. Her tremors were extremely bad. Worse than I had seen to that point. I went and got her medicine and helped her take her pills. While I was doing so she began to cry. She asked me through her tears why this was happening to her. At the time I didn’t have an answer. So I just sat with her and held her until the medicine did it’s job.
About a year and a half after this experience my mother passed away from a heart attack and complications of the Parkinson’s. Following her funeral we had a little reception where we could meet and talk with friends and family. An acquaintance from high school approached me and with tears in his eyes, told me that he and his two brothers would have never graduated had it not been for my mother. His mother was a single mother working 3 jobs just to keep them in their home. They didn’t have any money for lunch. And for that matter didn’t eat breakfast before they came to school. Every day my mother would make sure the three of them got their lunch. I was surprised to say the least I had no idea she was doing that. I thanked him for his condolences. A moment later another classmate came up to me with a similar story and another and so on. I’m not sure how many there were but it was heartwarming knowing how many lives my mother had helped out.
Then it dawned on me why my mother was suffering so with the Parkinson’s. It was her turn to hold the other end of the stick. After all those years of providing service to those in need, it was time for her to be on the receiving end. To let others serve her.
We sometimes feel ashamed when we are the beneficiaries of others acts of service. We shouldn’t be. It only means that when we have an opportunity to receive service, we need to look for ways to pay it forward. Look for ways to help others. Clearing snow,, raking leaves, pulling weeds, any other ways we can serve our neighbors is a way of paying back. It may not be in the cards to provide a huge Christmas for a deserving family but we should always look for ways that we can help others. I believe that is the real meaning of Christmas, to love one another and do what we can throughout the year.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.