In just a few hours, it will be Thanksgiving Day. There are only 32 days until Christmas and 38 days until we close the book on 2016. From now until the end of the year, my calendar is full of holiday festivities. For all the challenges that characterized the end of last year—mostly due to being a mom of two with a screaming, colicky infant—this year is shaping up to be the type of holiday you see in Christmas commercials. The boys are a year older. Brooks is happy, healthy and only occasionally screaming; and Holden is excited about Christmas. We’re decking all the halls and baking all the cookies.
Despite the festive feels emanating from my household, I’ve felt keenly aware of the fragility of life over the past few weeks. Perhaps it’s the political uncertainty caused by the election, or the terror in Syria or the heartbreaking loss of life in Chattanooga, but lately, my heart has been grieving over the fact that so many others around the world aren’t gearing up for the same type of Instagram-worthy holiday that I am.
On our drive to visit family this morning, we stopped at McDonalds for lunch. (Our second time at the Golden Arches today, lest you think I’m in the running for mom of the year.) As we were leaving the world’s finest dining establishment, we saw a homeless woman sitting outside. Her sign said: “Even a smile helps.” Not surprisingly, she smiled at the four of us and said “Adorable family.”
For a brief moment, my eyes met hers, and in that moment I saw a woman desperately seeking joy in the midst of incredible sadness. A woman who is often ignored, just looking to be acknowledged. A woman who will likely spend the holidays outside, alone and without much to celebrate.
Regrettably, the only response to her kind words that I could muster was “God bless.” As I walked to the car, I knew that wasn’t enough. What does “God bless” mean to someone who will sleep outside in the cold tonight? Words are good. Biblical promises can be life-giving, but they can’t fill an empty stomach.
So, I went back to the woman. I took a bag of food with me. She cried when I handed it to her. I asked her name: Rebecca. I shook Rebecca’s hand. I looked into her eyes and asked if I could pray for her. She said yes, and I prayed. And in that moment, as the tears streamed down her face and mine, I knew that this was probably the most important thing I would do this entire holiday season.
My friends own a small clothing company called LUVD. They just launched a new shirt design that says “I’m with you.” I’ll let them tell you about the meaning behind the slogan, but as I was standing in the Mcdonalds’ parking lot, praying with Rebecca, I just kept thinking: “I’m with you.”
Before we all get too busy this holiday season, perhaps we should pause and take note of those around us who might need someone to “just be” with them. I may not know all of these people, but I know some of them. And they are where the rubber of my faith meets the road of my life…
So, to the mom who’s spending her first Christmas without her child. I’m with you. My mama heart cries with yours. You can have my shoulder to lean on.
To the woman whose husband walked out earlier this year and now you’re facing bills, the house, and most of all, the kids, alone. I’m with you. Let me take your children when you need rest.
To the lady who just got the diagnosis. I’m with you. To bring you a meal when the treatments are taking a toll on your body.
To the family who doesn’t know where your next meal will come from. I’m with you.
To the refugee whose been displaced from your home and can’t find your family. I’m with you.
To the black, Latino or LGBTQ person who fears for your future in America or elsewhere. I’m with you.
May our calendars never be so full that we don’t have time to go where our hearts lead.
Happy holidays, everyone.