For a little while, I let myself feel the blues of Christmas. Then I realized that anticipation is part of the driving force behind joy. And sad stories can help us to appreciate the abundance we enjoy in this moment. It's okay to have the blues, but even better to be lifted into the light of joy. Sometimes that happens when we pause long enough to remember things from our past.
As a child, there was a little joke we used to tell each other. It was a test to see if we could fool our friends. It goes like this: You look your friend/cousin/sibling in the face and say, "look up!" (if they are younger and gullible, they respond to your command and look to the sky). Then, you say "look down!" As they look at their feet, you then say "look all around!" While their heads are spinning side to side, you say really loud "YOUR PANTS ARE FALLING DOWN!" Then laugh like crazy because in their foolish reaction they have then made a motion to pull up their pants, which have been securely in place the whole time.
Maybe we should still be saying that little joke. Because it's a call for awareness...and sometimes looking up, down and all around can make a big difference in someone's life.
When I was young, I was painfully heartbroken when I first experienced Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Match Girl. Living in the north, where snow is measured in feet and not inches, I was especially sensitive to the story of a child who freezes to death on the coldest, darkest, last night of the year. As I read the story again today, I now understand why I feel sadness during the New Year's Holiday. It was ingrained in me as an ending and not a beginning, despite the fact that the little match girl is guided to heaven by her grandmother, coming ever closer to her from the light of the flaming matches.
My memory of this story has triggered a long buried memory I have of a girl I knew from school. One winter in fourth grade, we were outside on the playground. It had recently snowed and I was warmly outfitted in a pair of outrageous moon boots, a snowmobile suit, mittens, scarf and hat. Then all of a sudden, my friend appeared. We chatted for a little while, and during the pause in conversation, I looked down to see her feet, which where bright red and nearing a stage of frostbite. She was wearing a pair of slip on dress shoes with no socks. Why the teachers allowed her to go outside like that is still a mystery. We enjoyed three recesses every day, and the one after lunch was thirty minutes long.
The sight of her red feet surrounded by snow stayed in my mind all day.
When I came home, I told my mother. (I've often been accused of tattle tale-ing, but in this case it was a good quality). Thankfully, at our house we didn't live like minimalists and kept things "just in case." After hearing my story, my mom went down to the basement and came up bearing last year's "snowmobile" boots. They were waterproof, with a lining that could be removed for drying on the register. Although they might have still fit me in fourth grade, I was embarrassed to wear them because they had a Mickey Mouse symbol on the side.
The next morning at school, I nervously presented a brown grocery sack with the boots to my new friend. I expected that it might be a difficult gift to accept because the Mickey Mouse symbol would mean more teasing for a girl that was already bearing the weight of being different. But my friend was a gracious reciever, and wore them the same day, and every snowy day that winter.
I'm learning this year that this Christmas is more than a celebration of traditional activities. It is a a reminder...a call...to Look Up! Look Down! Look All Around!
God's love is falling down!