Tuesday, December 25, 2012

How far does your Chrismtas spirit go?

We've had a lovely, family Christmas with all the trimmings--"out" presents and stockings for excited kids,and thoughtful stocking gifts for adults, a lazy big breakfast, and then an attack on the mountain of gifts undere the tree. Seven-year-old Morgan told me tonight it's the best Christmas she's ever had. Dinner was early--turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, a new version of green bean cassereole--nobody wanted apple pie. Now, at eight, it feels like midnight and the house is quiet.
I kow there are many who did not share these blessings of Christmas, many for whom this day was just like to many others or worse--perhaps they were lonely, hungry, cold, frightened. A disturbing incident that happened to my daughter and her family has set me thinking about those less fortunate--and how you know who is real and who is a scammer. It's a cycnical attitude but symptomatic, I fear, of the times in which we live.
They were coming home from midnight services, delayed first by the need to wait while ambulance attendants cared for a woman who fainted toward the end of the service (it's always crowded and it gets hot in there--easy to faint at this season of too much stress and fatigue), then by a wreck. I'm not sure I have the story straight but a tow truck followed them home--perhaps from the wreck?--and into their driveway. A woman got out and asked for money. They had their six-year-old with them and reacted as any parents would I think--with fright and concern for the child, and for themselves. They closed the electric gate and the garage doors, bolted all the doors and turned on the alarm system (what a world we live in!). Sorry to say I think I would have called the police--my neighborhood association has trained me well that it's better to be suspicious than a victim (again, what a world!).
But for some reason, hearing this tale today, I thought of Halloween and the trick-or-treaters who came to my front porch. I was touched and delighted by the mothers who said to children who grabbed, "No, no, only one piece." And I was slightly outraged by the mothers--and a couple of grandmothers--who grabbed handfuls for themselves. Until someone said to me, "Judy, perhaps that is all they had to eat that day" and anger turned to curiosity, open to the possibility that compassion was called for.
I live across the street from an elementary school and occasionally harried parents block my driveay. It's rude and inconsiderate, and it makes me angry. I expressed that to the crossing guard one day when I went to pick up Jacob and he said, "She's handicapped. I told her it was okay. Told her you don't ever go anywhere this time of day." Of course I don't--I'm doing first-grade homework. I felt humble--and a bit humiliated.
So how do you know, especially with all the horrific tragedies of the last few weeks, when the need is real and compassion is the answer and when caution is the prudent expedient. Remember when the initials WWJD were popular--what would Jesus do? What would he have said to the woman in the tow truck? I'm afraid I'd have reacted just as my kids did and probably also called the police...and then I'd have spent a sleepless night worrying about whether or not I had done the right thing. Maybe she had hungry kids at home or she wanted money to buy at least one small Christmas surprise. We'll never know.

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