How it is that such seemingly small events can take root and blossom at precisely the right moments! What seems so offhand, so casual can, in the end, lead you so far along the path you need to travel!
Some years back—a rough guess would be somewhere between ten and dozen years ago—at a family gathering the question was posed of all present regarding what they enjoyed most about Christmas. There were, of course, the expected answers: getting to spend time with friends and family, having fun with dance and music, enjoying good food and so on. My brother-in-law Darrell’s response, though, was the one that stood out: watching his kids opening their gifts.
At the time, other than to note its uniqueness I did not give it a whole lot of thought. Since then, though, with each passing year, that sentiment becomes more and more meaningful as I see more and more of what it implies.
It’s been said that the only things we leave behind are our acts, particularly those done in the spirit of love and kindness. What’s more, the system can’t be gamed; we may, in our foolishness, try and craft some lasting image by controlling what’s been said and written about us but it’s to no avail. People will learn of, and speak, the truth after we’ve gone and the barriers built from fear and intimidation have crumbled. Perhaps we may even donate money to various causes in the hopes that their works will come to reflect on us. In truth, though, that, too, serves little more than to satisfy an immature ego. Once we’re gone that carefully crafted veneer too will fade, the edifice will vanish. Either way what’s left behind will only be our deeds and their effects.
How fitting that this time of year is the one in which the birth of one so significant in history is celebrated! Such a modest entrance—a young mother and a humble, poor father and forced to start it off in such squalid surroundings. A life lived simply too, and no physical record remaining of his very existence. No palace, no park, not so much as a stone monument. Nothing at all left to moulder and decay in the bitter light that follows the passing of one thought to be so great.
But the deeds; always acts of kindness and love; done with courage and intended to bring just one simple message: make this a world where love and justice reign supreme. You may wonder, sometimes, just who’s listening but then again, perhaps these are just random ramblings.
It’s getting late, after all. What must they think—anyone passing by my house this time of night and seeing through the living room window that my Christmas tree lights are still turned on. In the faint glow there can be seen a solitary figure of a middle aged man typing intently on a laptop. What’s he doing? Shouldn’t he be in bed at this hour?
Let them think, however briefly. After all they, too, have concerns to deal with: gifts, obligations, debt; whatever. Their minds will drift back to what’s important to them soon enough. I am simply enjoying a few quiet moments by the tree, thinking of my yesterdays and how they flow into my tomorrows.
Gifts have been placed beneath the tree and everyone else is in bed, hopefully asleep. Perhaps they are thinking of opening gifts tomorrow but their thoughts, acting as they are in the unpredictable domain of sleep are likely less than focused right at this moment. My children are dealing with young adulthood now and, so, childlike thoughts of a man dressed in red bringing gifts have long since faded from their realities, except for the times when nostalgia stirs the awakening of some of the same impressions and feelings that I am enjoying right now. It’s an ebb and flow now though and the current is moving fast. For them, the transformation from Christmas as a time of receiving to being a time of giving is well underway but they’re nowhere past the point at which an unexpected gift can still evoke a sense of delight.
I can well imagine some of it happening in just a few hours.
Right now there’s just the sound of the clock in the kitchen. I close my eyes for a few moments and let each tick advance, slideshow fashion, images from past Christmas mornings: packages opened with wonderment and delight; squeals of joy and visions of glowing happy faces chattering away to me, showing me some of the wonderful things that Santa had thoughtfully left by the tree: a game console, a handheld, games, toys, books; whatever.
A little flash of turned-off lights outside signals that Mike, my neighbour across the street, has just packed it in for the night. It’s about time for me to do the same.
But not quite yet—I close my eyes again and think about continuity. For just a moment I’m taken back to a time, long since passed, when I, too, would eagerly await the coming of Christmas morning. Another tick of the clock and I recall my Dad telling me of when he was a boy and how they’d find treats of oranges in their stockings. Oranges! So far removed from the piles of clothes and electronic delights that are now the staples. Another tick and I am back in the present. It’s time for bed. After all I need to be awake enough tomorrow to drive out to the in-laws for Christmas dinner, followed by a few days of fun with the extended family.
I let my eyes close again, just one last time. Perhaps it’s sleep creeping up on me, but this time I see nothing. I just get a thought, one that comes without any sensory accompaniment; as such, just a fleeting impression. What of the days ahead—will there be a time when my own children get to share a quiet moment like this one, just themselves, the tree and that quiet but powerful link, wrought from our deeds, between the past and the future and maybe come to marvel on the connection between getting and giving? One can hope. Hope, yes…but, perhaps, that’s for another time.