Every year around this time, I find a quiet message that comes my way. And usually I share it in my newsletter with greetings for a happy Christmas, a peaceful Christmas. This year, I wasn’t sure what to say. There seemed to be no sweet story to tell. There has been so much going on, what with Santa Claus coming, and banana bread to bake, gifts to wrap, family arriving, the smell of paint fumes in the air…
Until Friday and Saturday. Yes, this was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yes, our spirits were merry and light…even with cedar fever in the air…!….but we bundled up in the chilly morning air, my family and me, as we headed down to the Homeless Brunch at First United Methodist Church, directly across from the capitol of downtown Austin, and spent Christmas Eve morning serving nearly 400 of Austin’s homeless.
For two and half hours we sang Christmas songs, poured coffee, offered to bring more egg cassarole, and generally performed seva (the act of giving) to fulfill the needs of many. Lily passed out gloves and hats, and even, shyly, sang upon the microphone. Soon, a gaggle of girls were upon the makeshift stage, of all ages, singing their hearts out,
some dressed as reindeer, some dressed as elves, some wearing bright green tee shirts that read “Feed My People.”
I found myself, once again, with tears on my cheeks, in awe of the sweetness children bring. Kathleen, one of our ministers, was thoughtfully pounding away at the piano, reminding me of my grandmother and her long fingers, elegantly stepping through the keys, bringing life and magic that a piano can bring to any party. Kathleen has kinky, gray hair and sparkling bluish-grayish eyes. You can NOT feel unhappy or dis-ease when you are in the presence of Kathleen. She has the spirit of love all about her.
We met many new friends…Margaret, who must be no older than 19, with fallen dirty blonde curls and glasses, enthusiastically asking if she can play “Ode to Joy” on the piano. And then getting so nervous when it was her turn that she forgot how to play it except in single notes. Anastasia, in his/her silver pumps with
rasta wig and elegant red and black boustier, bustling around, keeping things lively. The man in the yellow vest parka, who came up and asked me to stop crying because it made him sad. The tall, happy man who asked if I was a pastor’s wife, and when I asked what that meant to him, he replied, “You know…full of elegance and lovingness.” I immediately wanted to be a pastor’s wife, so Lance will now be attending seminary!
To see the amount of people, pouring in to our church, needing so much, is a very humbling thing. For a country that has so much…it is a puzzle to me how invisible the homeless are in our society, and yet, they are a growing community within our midst. I scratch my head every day…what can I do? What can I do….Do you see a pattern here? “What can I do” has been my mantra ever since I was a candy striper at 14…that was when I delivered flowers and urine samples and realized, “This is not enough. What can I do?”
Well, to continue on…Friday afternoon, we played around with the girls, and around 4 went over to Aunt Cindy’s with gifts, homemade sweet potatoes (you have just GOT to try my homemade sweet potatoes some day…I have a secret ingredient which makes them extra super universally yummy!!!) Hey! That gives me an idea….maybe someday I’ll make a dinner and serve it up and people could donate money to the dinner party and that money could go towards a shelter/educational/rehabilatative service(s) for the homeless…Hmm! I’ll have to ponder on that!
Being at Aunt Cindy’s is always a treat because she really gets into dressing the tree. This year her theme was blue…so blue lights, blue sparkling feathers placed just so among the branches, and silver balls made of tiny little bound twigs…And her house smells good, like Christmas should….nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon, with a hint of peppermint…all good…except…except she has a little brown dog that is like a quick brown fox and it jump jump jumps and does that rear end shaky thing…and, being a dog, it lunges on you immediately as you enter the house, where you can’t go backwards because people are piling in behind you, and you can’t go forward for fearing of crushing the dog or falling on the newly decorated tree…and it always proves to me I’m such a cat person…yesh! give me a lap of five, furry, purring cats, but a jumpy, licky dog…UGH! well, I just have to focus on a glass of ice water or where to put the packages or immediately think about the fact that Bush is still president…anything to not think about the dog…
Mind you, I love dogs, really, especially big, gentle dogs that lay around and sleep all day…but little jumpy dogs…they always want to smell your crotch, so I have to let go, say, “Ok, here you go, go on! Get to know me!” and thrust my lower body into the air and then drink from the glass of said water I mentioned last paragraph…and hum or check my nails as they take their time, violating me with their wet, black nose.. finding out more about me than I’ll ever know. Then, as if they’ve all attended the same dog school, they ALWAYS do that little sneeze/sniff, shake their heads violently back and forth, up and down: as if to add a finishing touch, as if to say, “Yep. You pass inspection. Come on in! And I know you had brocolli yesterday.”
The big news is that Lance’s father walked on his prosthetic yesterday for the first time, including walking up stairs into Cindy’s home. The last four years have been a giant strain on our wee family, with medical plagues descending upon Lance’s father one after another. Just when there would seem to be an answer to a problem, three more would spring up out of no where. I will not relay all the minute details, but suffice it to say that this man has endured more than any person I have ever known, and I have known many who have suffered. For him to walk those forty feet and up the stairs was a tremedous hurdle, as my girls and I were cheering him on (“Go, Grandpa! You can do it! Come on! Hooray!”) as Lance, Lance’s mother, and Aunt Cindy all supported him on this new journey to regained freedom.
Again, we were all choked up with pride, relief, gratitude and, may I say, wonder at how strange life can be.
But, I have strayed from my original intent. The story I wish to share is one of many, I am discovering!
I think the particular story I have in mind will have to wait until tomorrow, though, because I must return to bed and try to sleep a few hours before the sun peeks in and shakes me with her gentle glow.