Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Let us look past the glitter and see the grit around us

New column freshly posted on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter

As you read this, Thanksgiving will be but a memory from 2013 and Christmas will be coming full force upon us. I’m taking a moment to feel the silence and wonder of this holiday season. Before I put my tree up and let the twinkle lights take over the room, I want to embrace December and all its quiet grace--because once I let the madness in, it’s all over. 

I want to seize the pockets of solitude--those ones before the pressure of finding the perfect gift turns my brain into mush. Every year I decide that the gifts won’t be the focus. Every year I find myself trying to be equal and creative with gifts, yet that awful feeling of “there aren’t enough presents under the tree” tries to creep in. I’m killing that monster this year. My kids are gracious receivers and have told me that they don’t want tons of gifts, just a few meaningful ones. I like the way this is going.

It hits me square in the face though, how I’m already thinking what to buy, and there are so many people that will be lucky to have food on their table or even a place to sleep. I read an article this weekend called “Why I make terrible decisions, or, poverty thoughts” which you can read athttp://tinyurl.com/k3hg2rf.

Her prose slices like a knife and it will either make you mad or make you cry. We oft times sit by our tree or up to a big Thanksgiving meal without giving a thought to the bounty we have. We judge the poor, whether it be in discussion or on Facebook, which happens at an alarming rate. 

I love my Christmas, and I also love my Thanksgiving, and I’m not suggesting that we should give it up because others don’t have. What I’m suggesting is a bit more compassion. The amount of bashing I’ve seen about people on food stamps and various other government programs should cause immense amounts of shame. I have cringed at things I’ve seen and heard. Read this woman’s article and her thought process, and tell me you feel the same disgust afterward. It’s a path most of us haven’t traveled. 

There are angels amongst us, and I wish I could claim it was me. Instead, I will claim her as my best friend whom I met almost 26 years ago. Several years ago she heard God calling her to feed the homeless. She never wavered. One Christmas morning she made a roaster full of sausage gravy and biscuits, and packed some coats and gloves. Her family and her took off to the meanest streets of Akron and opened up the back of their car and fed the people who hesitantly slipped out of the shadows. 

She’s been doing this every other weekend for several years now. She doesn’t want any recognition, none at all, but God has blessed her and her work in a big way by providing her with a trailer to feed people out of. At one end is food, and at the other are supplies and clothing that are all donated. She said, “Lots of people ask me how I can do it. What if they sell the clothes to buy drugs or alcohol? I’m not here to judge these people and ask each one what they will do with what we give them. I’m here to love them for this moment.” 

This is the kind of love we need to have. The kind of love that looks past a junkie and his appearance and gives him a plate of steaming sausage gravy and fluffy biscuits. The kind of love that doesn’t say we “shouldn’t make them dependent” because they will just want more. The kind of love that comes from God and doesn’t condemn. You can find her reluctantly made Facebook page called Love is a Verb at www.facebook.com/loveisaverb08.

With that being said, the gifts I’m concerned about getting don’t seem so important anymore. One by one, they will be purchased and nestled under the tree, and I will gaze in wonder at the twinkling lights in the dark, as I have every year I’ve been alive. 

I want to feel more, though, more than the pressure that’s put on us to get our tree up earlier and earlier. Are we searching for more than just the Christmas spirit we feel decorations bring? This year I saw blinking lights in a few houses back in October. Could it be that we gorge on the feeling Christmas brings us? Does it make us feel happy and content? Or is it a hollow feeling that we try to capture earlier and earlier because regular life just doesn’t cut it? 

As I was doing a bit of shopping this past weekend, I found myself maniacally singing holiday songs that were blaring at top volume in the store I was in. I love the songs, but not the fact that the store had me in its claws, forcing holiday cheer down my throat earlier than I wanted it to. I love Christmas so much. I love the splendor, the smell of fresh pine in my home, and the gathering of loved ones for food and merriment. Are we content, though, when the tree is hustled down and all the tinsel and glitter are swept away? Do we keep Christmas in our hearts as January, cold and chill, sweeps in upon us? Do we remember those that are wrapped inside cardboard boxes so they don’t freeze to death or are we content to keep judging them and the various government programs they take advantage of?

We of plenty and no want. We of overabundant holiday joy. Let us not forget the ones that are less fortunate, because God hasn’t forsaken them. Let their lament touch us, if just for fleeting moments, so we can know that this life isn’t all sparkly Christmas ornaments and lights.