Thanksgiving ushers in the Christmas Season, “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Just like the wise men who came and brought gifts to the Christ child, so too, have we, as a Christian society, adopted the practice of giving gifts.
With all of the commercialism of the last decade, more and more people are choosing to not focus on gifts in the same traditional way. More and more posts are seen on Facebook, for example, encouraging others to do something for someone in need, rather than buy expensive gifts.
People in need are not always poor or homeless. Many times they are just regular people who have challenges that most of us do not even know about, but if we are observant, we may see a need that we can fill.
A Christmas not so long ago, someone filled a need for me “the White Mountain way.”
I had bought a house in Taylor. As is my M.O., I just got moved in and had not even unpacked when a tragedy occurred. I was walking my two dogs before heading out to an event. Unfortunately, someone’s little dog got out and came running towards me and my two large dogs. Never did it occur to me the little dog would come over to us, because of its size. Holding the leash of one of my dogs in one hand and the other leash in my other hand, as the little dog came closer, I was hurled in the air and landed hard on my back on the asphalt.
I remember the owner and her company coming over and asking me if I was alright, if I knew my name and where I lived. I responded and must have satisfied them that I was alright. One of them had gathered up my dogs for me, and stunned, I headed to my house.
I never made the event that night. I was hurting all over but, since my refrigerator had not yet arrived, I called another neighbor and asked they get me 10 pounds of ice. I took four Ibuprofen and laid on the ice, getting up only once in the middle of the night to go and get some more ice.
The next morning I could walk straight, could go down my stairs, but could not walk up the stairs without excruciating pain.
I worked in radio at that time and I had a live two hour show that afternoon, and the show must go on.
I picked up 10 more pounds of ice, took some more Ibuprofen and headed to the station to do my show. For two hours I sat on ice. After the show, I headed to acupuncture where I was treated for six hours. It turned out that I had a fractured tail bone and a concussion, and I had no insurance.
It was our busy time for holiday ads in radio and I could not stay home. I just trudged on , did what I had to do, and proceeded to try to heal.
I still needed to unpack and get my new house in order, but with my injuries, I was lucky to get to work and to take care of my dogs. Lucky I had a fenced yard, because I could not walk them.
All of my family is in Alabama and that year I knew that I would not be able to go home for Christmas, having just moved. Every night, after really long days at work, I would head home to a dark, unpacked house.
One night, while feeling all alone, and seeing Christmas lights all over, and hearing about everyone’s plans with their families for Christmas, I was feeling particularly sad at this “most wonderful time of the year.” As I turned onto my new street and headed towards my house, I felt like the character in “The Night Before Christmas,” because much to my surprise, my multi-level usually dark and empty-looking house was totally lit up with beautiful colored Christmas lights.
I sat in the driveway, mouth wide-open and eyes filled with tears. I did a double-take to make sure I was at the right house. It was beautiful, and it was actually my house.
As I headed to my backdoor, there was a note saying something to the effect that the fairies had noticed that I always come home late, and to a dark house. The note said they took it upon themselves to change that for me, and if I did not like it, I could make it known, and they would come back and take the lights down. Oh my. Of course I liked it. I loved it, and it truly filled my heart with joy. All the lights, also, upstairs, around and down, were on timers. Those fairies thought of everything.
That very moment, I felt so blessed. I knew I had moved to a special place, a place where people noticed other people and cared about them.
I wasn’t hungry or cold, or without food or funds to buy food, but I longed for traditions and memories of Christmases past. Someone had noticed and they did not even know me.
Fast forward, after Christmas, those fairies also came and took the decorations down.
We all hear about random acts of kindness, but often we don’t really know the people who perform them, but the stories we hear are inspirational.
In fact, Random Acts of Kindness is really an International non-profit organization, started in 1995 and headquartered in Denver, CO. Its purpose is to do what someone did for me with those Christmas lights. It is to inspire people to practice kindness and pass it on to others. It is supported by an endowment and they even do research on random acts of kindness and its effects.
Their research has revealed something most of us already know in our hearts. The best ways to increase our own happiness is to do things that make other people happy.
You are probably wondering at this point if I ever found out who put up those Christmas lights at my house. I did find out, and it was not fairies. It was my next door neighbor, Gina Udall, who I did not even know at that point.
Gina Udall today is a retired school teacher, and I am happy to say that now, eight years later, she is my treasured friend. Though not a member of Random Acts of Kindness in Colorado, it is her nature to do kind, nice things for others. She lives in Taylor, Arizona, and she is a real person, someone you can believe made my bleak Christmas that year so special with her simple – but grand to me – act of kindness.
Incidentally, those random acts can be performed any time.
Merry Christmas everyone.