Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass- it is about learning to dance in the rain.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Christmas Pledge
Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the following:

1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts.

2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents.

3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family.

4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas.

5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends.

-from Unplug the Christmas Machine , by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Side Effects of the Season

Sadness seems to have more depth at this time of year, kind of like the layers of snow that keep coming and piling up before the previous layer can be taken care of. Some situations feel even worse in the sparkling glow of colored lights and the tinkling sound of silver bells.

I run across situations daily. There’s the teenage boy living with 3 siblings and a dad in a one bedroom walkup with one bath. He doesn’t complain. Last year’s teachers remember bits and pieces of his situation. I confirm them. There won’t be Christmas this year. There’s no money.

Or the teenage girl whose older sister just ran away with her boyfriend. The boyfriend doesn’t want to get married; the girl’s parents are adamant that they must be married immediately to protect the family name. The teenager at home cries herself to sleep at night, then comes to school barely able to function. At the nurse’s office, she has no temperature, but insists she’s weak and can barely walk. I invite her to my office to talk. We uncover the nature of her illness: She’s heartsick.

There’s the group of girls who fight with one another constantly including in-your-face stuff online and in text messages. Resolving the conflict uncovers a history of abuse in all but one of the girls. We report it only to find that DCFS considers it yesterday’s news. Not confirmable.

One youngster has an office referral; we sit down to discuss the situation. I discover that Dad is in prison, mom has deserted him and his sister. He’s living with a relative. I note that his shirt is soiled – the kind of dirt that comes from repeated wearing without washing. Apparently no one is caring much for him.

Countless students worry about having to move from their housing due to rent not being paid. Some move, usually without notice. They are just gone. Vanished into the night to escape the bills. We might criticize the parents for lack of character in such cases, but what of the children? What of the little boy living out of the car? What of the little girl denied the privilege of saying goodbye to her BFF? Will she make another friend or just shut down in the face of emotional devastation?

What can one person do in the face of such desperation in the children? Not a lot. Oh, we have a giving tree at school; teachers even organized a garage sale to raise money for this season. And my family is scaling our Christmas down this year in order to give away the money we would normally spend. But it seems so small and the needs so great.

In the glimmer of sparkling lights, with a background of Christmas melodies these stories take on new life, with poignancy unfelt in other seasons.
As you grab for the Kleenex, take another look at your resources. This is a great opportunity. Contact a social worker at a school in a poor area of your town and make a donation. Give some time at the homeless shelter that you didn’t want in your neighborhood. Slip a $20 or a $50 in the Salvation Army bucket. Talk to the elderly at your church or synagogue. Do they have a place to go for Christmas dinner? Smile at the harried mom with several preschool children in tow. He came for such as these!

And. . . say a prayer for those in need. Say a prayer for yourself and your circle of friends that God will reveal Himself in ways you would not dream of. That’s another wonderful side effect of the season. It’s a season for miracles!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Things are not always what they seem. . .

One of the important things that God is teaching me is not to jump to conclusions. You’d think at my age I would have learned this already. Alas! I have not. Specifically, some of the things that anger me are not what I presume they are. Imagine that!

Take for instance this morning. I’m driving to work on a snowy morning. I head uphill the last half block to work when suddenly a car backs out into the road in front of me. Now, I have time to stop. But I am partially up a fairly steep snow covered hill. I’m muttering to myself about ignorant people who don’t think about weather conditions before pulling out….. yada, yada, yada.

I did get traction again, fortunately, and follow the new Chrysler up the hill. To my surprise, he turns left into the school parking lot. I’m thinking, “Is one of our teachers really stupid enough to do that? Which of my friends doesn’t have sense enough to deserve to be behind the wheel?”

So as I park my car I keep an eye on this miscreant who doesn’t park, but makes a U-turn in the lot and just sits there. Then I spot a tall teenaged boy coming down the stairs from the subsidized housing next door with a young teenage girl on his back – piggyback style. I’m interested.

The boy walks over to the car and very gently sets the girl down. She is favoring one foot and holding her hand to her stomach as though she is either sick or injured. And I have an aha moment.

The driver of the car is either a friend or a relative of the kids and has answered a call for help to take the girl to the doctor/hospital. And I have a sudden change of attitude. Nice person, to come out at 7:30 a.m. on a snowy morning to give someone a ride for medical treatment.

And I start to wonder. What would it be like to have to call for help for your injured/ill sister. (I’m presuming here – but reasonably probable stuff). To have to depend on a friend/relative for transportation. Where’s the parent of the teenagers? Why isn’t the girl accompanied by someone from her own home? What would it be like to call a friend or relative hoping they’d take you to the hospital?

Yep. My attitude changed. I realized that the car that cut in front of me had passed by the entrance to the parking lot and was turning around to go back when he stopped me dead in my tracks. But he was on an errand of mercy. Early morning, snowy and cold. He had the heart to come help a friend even if he didn’t have the good sense to drive appropriately in the snow. Maybe I had the good sense, but he had the heart.

Turn off the anger. Turn on the compassion! Things are not always what they seem.

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