Sunday, December 19, 2010
My Christmas Surprise
Two days later I stood in that long line at the Post Office to get stamps for the cards. My turn finally came and moved to another room to stamp the envelopes. But as I riffled through the cards a strange sensation came over me. As I stamped each envelope I began to notice the names. The cards went everywhere—some even to England. I was surrounded by a sea of faces. Some were addressed to solitary widows who lost their mates this year. One card went to a friend battling breast cancer in South Carolina. There was the card to be sent to my friend who lost her 40-year-old daughter. Not all the cards were sad. I smiled as I remembered other days and other times. My brother’s surprise 50th Anniversary Party with all of his friends and family there. My buddy who completely changed vocations and is happier than I have seen him in years. In that stack were the names of several staff members that I leaned on heavily to get our work done. There was a card to my old buddy in California that used to sit on my porch in the twilight and argue politics. There was the name of a couple that moved away this year that I still miss seeing. There were several cards in that stack were to old friends who go all the way back to the beginning of college and marriage and first jobs. I sent one card to my old friend who, never able to go to college herself, saved up her nickels and dimes from her job in a knitting mill to help me do what she could never do.
Our preacher preached on the Surprises of Christmas last Sunday. He challenged us to open our eyes and discover a touch of wonder somewhere we least expected. This is the essence of Christmas, finding in a manger on a cold, windy night a child that would change it all. Memory washed over and I remembered so many places we have lived, so many people that we have been blessed to know.
I placed the cards in the slot at the post office. And as I moved toward my car the Christmas surprise hit me. My life has been touched and changed by a multitude along the way. I remembered a quote that a member gave me as I was leaving my job at the church. I still have that yellowing paper under glass on my desk. The words come from the writer, Katherine Mansfield, “How hard,” she wrote, “it is to escape from places! However carefully one goes; they hold you—you leave bits of yourself fluttering on the fences, little rags and shreds of your very life.” I think Christmas came to me standing in a long line at the Post office, sorting through cards, placing stamps on envelopes. We never know when Christmas will walk down our street and knock on our door.
(This article appeared in the Op Ed section of The Birmingham News (AL.) December 25, 2010.)