From My WindowIssue Date: December 22, 2020
Abnormal Christmas Preparation
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
I was listening to some Christmas music a few days ago, and heard the old traditional carol "Good King Wenceslaus." For those of you who don't know the carol, I'll give you the "summary" version, since it is a very long song.
The King looked out his castle window on a nasty winter day and noticed a man walking along picking up sticks for a fire. The King called a page and asked who the man out in the adverse weather was and was told he lived "a good league hence" (3.5 miles away.) The King took pity on the man's desperate search for fuel, and ordered up a load of pine logs, wine and meade, and set out on foot to the man's home, trailed by his presumably burdened help. The page started complaining the journey was too difficult, so the King advised him to follow in his own footsteps, so he'd be breaking the trail for his helper. The servant found the steps of his King to be magically warmed and easy to follow. The final words of the carol are "Therefore, Christian men be sure, wealth or rank possessing, ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing."
It's easy to see the Christian message in the carol, with the King being Christ and the burdened help being his followers, who are rewarded for following in his steps and in caring for the least among us. This last " caring for the poor and downtrodden, is a tenet of all major faiths, because compassion is among the most noble of human qualities.
This resonated with me when I looked at my December calendar. Normally it is full of Christmas-related family gatherings, church activities, travel, parties to host and holiday baking and meals to plan. This year? Nothing out of the "new normal," due to our need to avoid contracting Covid. (In the spirit of seeing lemonade as I look at lemons, some years working full-time and preparing for Christmas was exhausting, besides also getting ready for lengthy travel, which nearly always resulted in a sick kid or two by New Year's Eve.)
As I write this we are mourning the Covid death of a good friend's father. It reinforces our commitment not to cheat on safer at home rules ourselves to have a normal Christmas, choosing instead to look forward to many more family Christmases in the years to come.
But Good King Wenceslaus (a real person, a Catholic martyr who was murdered in 935 A.D.) gave me some ideas. This year has been harsh on friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances. People have been sick, lost loved ones, lost income, or lost small businesses. Christmas is often a time of depression and sorrow, and it is safe to say this is a year when it will be worse than usual. I have time on my hands, and the ability to make a small difference in the lives of a few people. And I have been inspired by others who I see doing clever, innovative or thoughtful things for others. In fact I've been blessed by completely unexpected gifts from two PHS classmates who I seldom see " one who sent me a generous donation for the animal shelter I volunteer at, and the other who gave me a gift of her talent, a beautifully crocheted shawl. (This reinforces my belief that some truly great people come out of the little Peshtigo public school system.)
I have embraced their generous example and paid it forward to several people who wouldn't be expecting anything from me, in fact I chose to remain totally anonymous in matching my friend's monetary contribution to my shelter with a gift to someone who I was told was struggling to pay her utility bill.
Many of you, sadly, have also had economically stressful times this year. If so, I am including you in my prayers for those suffering right now. But a gift does not have to be monetary. Maybe you can shovel snow for someone; drop off a home-cooked simple meal to a shut in, or offer to take out their trash cans for them if they are not easily able to do so themselves. Depending on your own pandemic practices, maybe you can offer a ride to church or pick up some items at the grocery store for someone without access to transportation.
If you can't think of someone who has had a difficult year, I'd be surprised, but you can inquire at your workplace, church, neighborhood or favorite charity. Or call a nursing home and ask what might be welcomed for lonely residents. (Be sure to check first due to Covid restrictions.)
And no need to rush to do this before the formal date of December 25th. Remember, there TWELVE days of Christmas and the needs continue long past the formal holidays.
I'd be lying if I didn't admit I am going to miss my kids, and my granddaughter, who is at the perfect age for the mystery of Santa, terribly this holiday season. I am comforted they have wonderful partners, are healthy and safe, and won't be alone. And I am so much better off than many, especially our friend who lost her Dad two weeks ago Thursday. So I will not wallow in regret, and keep busy trying to help a few others who are having it much worse than I. It is making my holiday brighter to do so.
May you find your journey during this holiday season to be magically warmed, and your path easy to follow, like the struggling page of Good King Wenceslaus.
Merry Christmas to all, and peace on earth, goodwill towards men and women. Lord knows we need that right now.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.
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