Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas spirit?

If you are into Christmas at all, you probably subconsciously search and long for the ‘Christmas Spirit’. Naively we might expect that that Christmas Spirit is the same for everyone.
That is far from the case.
Each of us has that inner combination of nirvana, utopia, childhood memories (colored by the passage of time), and zeal that styles itself as ‘The Perfect Christmas’.
That is what we tend to long for; the reincarnation of something that actually never was.
We want everything to be perfect, just like we remember, except it never really was that perfect.
We take our piecemeal assortment of Christmas images, tastes and feelings and try to make them all magically appear right in front of us.
And then when it doesn’t quite all come together as we had hoped, we deal with the rubble as our dreams crash around us.
What’s the solution?
Lower expectations?
Give up?
Well, no, that’s a bit extreme.

How about:
  1. Recognizing the futility of trying to make everything perfect, and
  2. Choosing to make one part as good as you can, given your present circumstances.
No, you won’t be able to bring peace on earth, or solve all of your family dysfunction with one marvelous turkey dinner, but you might well be able to accomplish a special moment to honor a special relationship.
There’s no way that you will make all of the kids completely happy by buying everything on their ‘gimme’ list, but finding something within your budget will both let your child know they are loved, and yourself survive January without plastic surgery.
Or maybe it can even be more simple than that.
Last Christmas I did my normal routine: Write my Christmas newsletter, and try to get creative for some special Christmas gifts for some special friends and family members. I decided to create a little booklet of some of my blog posts from the previous Christmas. That worked out well enough, and they were delivered into the hands of Canada Post.
But the special memory of last Christmas is what happened Christmas morning.

Last fall I met a young man hanging around Centennial Square. He had recently lost his job, and like many of the rest of us, didn’t have enough saved to survive until he found another job. So, here he was, out on the street. Panning, trying to find a job, moving night by night through the 7 day rotation of the youth ‘Out of the Rain’ shelter system. 7 different locations each host the shelter one night a week, but the kids are turned out after breakfast and have no dry/warm place until the next evening.
We had some great conversations. He’s quite a friendly guy, and we hit it off.
His home life had left a little to be desired, so he was missing the positive presence of his parents.
As Christmas approached, I began feeling quite ‘fatherly’ towards this young man.
I really wanted his Christmas to be special, something more than just another night at the next stop on the youth shelter tour.
So, I made plans with him to take him out for Christmas breakfast.
I found out where he would be spending the night of Christmas Eve, and the time I could pick him up.
And there I was, at 9 or so Christmas morning. Knocking on the door, asking if Dan was there.
A few moments later, out he came.
I had spent a bit of time trying to think of some fun little gifts I could afford. A flashlight, some candy, a pair of gloves, etc. I wanted him to have some special gifts, something to let him know he wasn’t just another lonely young man, some guy alienated from his family.
So as we sat in the van, getting ready to head to Denny’s, I gave him his little pile of gifts.
It really was as much fun for me as for him.
And then we went for breakfast. He still snickers at the memory of how a hamburger was his special Christmas Day meal, but he enjoyed it.
And so did I.
I’ve seen him many times over the past year. Some things are going a bit better for him, some things haven’t changed much. He is an industrious sort, so has put on a lot of miles collecting bottles and cans, turning them in for the deposit. But for now at least, he’s still not back in the work force.

So a few days back, I asked him if he was interested in Christmas breakfast again.
And what he added to my memory of the previous one almost broke my heart.
Although he knew we had planned on getting together for breakfast last Christmas, he really hadn’t expected me to show up. People hadn’t kept their promises before, so he didn’t expect me to either.
So when I showed up at the door of the shelter, asking for him, he was quite shocked.
It wasn’t anything personal, just how he had learned to deal with the downer of broken promises.

It looks like we’ll be able to do breakfast again this year.
I’m looking forward to it.
It may well be the best memory of this Christmas as well.

And I think that’s one good way to deal with that inner longing to rekindle the Christmas Spirit—find one kind, special thing to do for someone, and do it right.
That’s the kind of Christmas Spirit that should last all year.


ron cole said...

You are beautiful so so many ways. If I forget, ask me about Rob ( aka the bead man ) on Sunday...I ate with Jesus Thursday evening.

Anonymous said...

You see, that's why I know you need to be where you are for Christmas. We understand. Not that we don't miss you, because we do. Heaps. But we get it. You are the only example of Jesus some people will meet this Christmas.

~Sister Dearest

Al said...

Thanks as always, sister dearest! Your support does my heart good.


count web site traffic
Staples Coupon