Let’s face it, the images in movies and advertising tell a very two dimensional story of Christmas. Laughing families gather gladly underneath the soft glow of the tree singing carols in perfectly tuned acapella. Yet the reality for some, is very different.
In my own circle I know families having their first Christmas without a loved one, couples thinking of a baby they should’ve had, and friends getting through Christmas without money or a job. I know parents who were in court custody battles this week. I have a friend waiting for a bed in rehab.
Some are asking questions. Some are wondering why. Others are waiting for answers. Some are waiting for forgiveness.
And then there are the broken hearts. The type that feels like it may never heal.
I apologise if this isn’t a fuzzy holiday message. I know that reading this kind of stuff isn’t as entertaining as watching Chevy re-runs; and for that I’m sort of sorry. But there are two reasons why I’ve chosen to write this particular article-
Firstly, because this stuff is true. Christmas can be a really difficult time for some and it’s important to acknowledge those families. Secondly, because there is one simple little thing that we can all do to make a difference. Someone did it for me, and it transformed my day.
I’m not complaining. Compared to many, I’m having a wonderful Christmas. I have my beautiful family around me, a roof over my head and plenty of food in my tummy. And yet, like most of us, things aren’t perfect. I’ve made mistakes in my life, and for many of those, I’m still paying the price.
My divorce is one such account. My ex and I came to the best agreement we could design around the season. The boys spend Christmas Eve with me, both parents do Christmas morning together and then the boys go and enjoy Christmas day with their dad. It’s the fairest way that we could do it, and yet, it never gets any easier to watch my boys leave.
My brain understands, but my heart is always confused. This morning I walked the boys to the door, wading through discarded wrapping paper, saying goodbye in a gaggle of happy laughter. I gave them hugs, wished them an awesome day with their dad and assured them that I had my own ‘fun plans’ for the day. I waved like a happy goose from the driveway… And then I walked inside to fall apart.
I don’t care what anybody says. You don’t ever get used to not having your kids at Christmas. It’s like trying to have Easter without chocolate. You feel robbed of the sweetest part.
Unbeknownst to me, the kids had forgotten something and had to turn back. And so there I was, mopping the floor alone, crying to Bing Cosby’s emotional rendition of Silver Bells, when my eldest son surprised me. It was awkward. It was also evident that I didn’t have any ‘fun plans’. I pulled myself together and explained that I was fine. He gave me a compassionate hug as he left.
I was so disappointed in myself. I didn’t want my boys carrying guilt or worrying about me. I spent a few hours feeling miserable about the situation and then one little phone call changed everything. It was my eldest son, calling to assure me that he and his brothers were having a great day. And then he finished by thanking me, “for letting them have this special time with dad”.
I nearly choked up. It was only a brief call, but his reassurance put everything into a new light. I was able to take the eyes off myself in the situation and was reminded that my sacrifice was actually a little gift.
Sometimes pain cannot be changed. But it can be framed into a fresh perspective. And even in the darkest circumstances, there is always some element of hope, gratitude, growth or gift. There is always something to hold on to. But every now and again, we may need a little hand.
A twelve year old made a phone call today that changed my day. In a few moments, I’m going to take my phone and make a call that might improve someone else’s. And I bet there is probably someone in your phone right now, who would see it as a gift to hear from you.
In all the noise and excitement of Christmas cards, gift paper and presents, let’s not forget to do some real giving today.