I spent part of last night reading an online article about Tori Spelling. Evidently, she doesn't have enough money to purchase a deluge of Christmas gifts for her four children, creating a holiday bust.
Christmas translates into holiday parties, festive decorating, and finding the perfect gift for those we love, our friends, our co-workers, family, and the list continues. The pressure is on not to disappoint. Some find themselves uber happy. Others, deeply depressed.
Let's make a detour on this Christmas road for a personal look. I will begin with my story. Okay, two stories. They are short. We might just end up in an unexpected spot.
My first married Christmas, my then husband and I had just arrived from serving overseas as missionaries. We rented a flat in Illinois and counted our money. To my dismay there was nothing left over for a Christmas tree, nor ornaments. We were about to host a family Christmas dinner to boot.
Then, like the Christmas miracle it was, I found a faux tree, bent over garbage bins in some alley. I pulled it out, straightened it a bit and took it home, treasuring my find. I lovingly handmade each ornament and tied it onto the limbs with red yarn. Upon completion, I stood back to admire the recreation. So lovely, it took my breath away.
Christmas baking complete, I set the kitchen table and the card tables with my grandmother's starched linens along with my garage sale dishes. The cheery faced guests began to arrive, dusting freshly fallen snow from their coats. Festive music belted from the radio and our warm little place filled with aroma of delicious food.
When the last guest stepped inside, I heard her shout, "OMG, that is the ugliest tree I have ever seen!" My heart tumbled along with my joy. Surely she was jesting. The sweet tree I had salvaged and decorated and loved was called ugly! I looked long and hard at the tree. There was not a bit of ugliness. There was only beauty. When I remember that moment, I still feel a bit of leftover sadness.
Fast forward thirty years to my single, online dating foray when I made an 'appointment' with a gentleman. We met at a Christian coffee house and greeted one another by shaking hands. I took a seat across from him. At first his clothing puzzled me. His clothes didn't match and looked worn, as if left over from the bottom of a Goodwill box. His hands were soiled. His hair, unkempt.
My knee jerk reaction was to bolt. Yet, I stayed. We chatted a few minutes before someone offered a half eaten lunch. "Want this?" the college student asked the older man.
I was appalled.
'Roy' was excited. "Yes, I sure do. Thanks!"
He dug in with his fingers, shoving almost all of it into his mouth with one scoop. As though as an afterthought, he held out the box to me. A corner of a sandwich remained. I politely declined, doing my best to hide my surprise. It was then I realized he was homeless, and probably contacted me through one of the public computers in the room.
Roy talked about his tough divorce, how he threatened his ex with a shotgun while on drugs. In prison, he allowed Jesus into his life. Since then he slept on the streets and at times in a halfway house, picking up work here and there.
When I felt it was time to leave, he walked me outside and we said goodbye near a dumpster. I could see him eyeing it, so I told him to help himself. The lid shot up and he tore open discarded garbage bags to find food and shoved it into his backpack, stopping to offer me some at times. By now, I had decided he clearly wasn't my type, but my heart went out to him and everyone else who led this hard life. That moment changed me.
I never saw Roy again, but I think of him each time I drive past the Christian coffee house, or see a wanderer on the street. Even if there is just a few dollars in my purse, I press it into their hand and wish them God speed. Its important. On one date, I handed a homeless woman in a wheel chair my restaurant take home food. (Never saw that date again.)
Like the discarded Christmas tree I found eons ago, we all see the discarded people trudging up and down the streets.
Have you ever wondered what they are thinking? Feeling? How did they end up here? Are they hungry? Are they cold? Where are their parents? Is anyone trying to find the lost?
Jesus. Jesus finds the lost. He found me in high school. He found Roy in prison. He found my son on a mental ward.
And like the Christmas tree I once decorated and thought so lovely, Jesus straightens up our bent over life and decorates us with His love and mercy and joy. We are clothed in beauty.
We are Christ's hands on earth. Lets get our hands dirty by sharing our blessings with those in need.
Can you see their beauty?
Pictures from Denton County Homeless Coalition