72. It’s for Everyone

72. It’s for Everyone

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

It’s for Everyone

There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone’s life.

~Sister Mary Rose McGeady

One would think a seasoned member of Santa’s helpers, and Captain of the Golden, Colorado Elves, could easily answer any Christmas-related question thrown her way. However, that was not the case this time. My inability to quickly formulate, let alone articulate, an answer was not because it was a difficult question. It was due to the setting and what appeared to be the reason behind the child’s inquiry.

A few years ago, at Christmastime, my lieutenant elves and I were helping Santa in a church-based homeless shelter. We were attempting to keep the excited little ones in line while waiting for their one-on-one time with St. Nick. I was distracted from my duties by someone pulling on my elf shirt. The young fellow’s head only reached the middle of my five-foot frame.

I looked into his face and was greeted by twinkling brown eyes and a wide grin showing some missing teeth. He motioned for me to bring an elf ear closer to his mouth.

When I was within hearing distance, he asked, “Miss Elf, is Christmas for me too this year?”

His hopeful expression broke my heart. I returned to a standing position, hoping that moving slowly would buy me the time needed to come up with an answer. Somehow, a simple “yes” just did not seem to be enough.

“Yes. Yes, sweetest child,” I said, “Christmas is for everyone. And it is especially for you this year.”

His eyes sparkled as he received the answer, nodded his head and moved in the direction of the big guy in red. I was pretty sure there was a sparkle in my eyes as well, but it was due to tears. I wondered how many times he had asked that sad question, and what answers he had received, during his young life.

I watched as he and Santa engaged in conversation. I could not take my eyes off him until I heard a soft voice in my left ear: “Thank you. You made his Christmas. May I give you a hug?”

I turned to face a woman in her mid-twenties who looked like the boy’s mother. She gave me that hug and then asked permission to tell me her story. I nodded again.

She related that for the past four years she and her two children had lived on the streets of Denver. She had fled an abusive marriage in the hope of keeping herself and her children safe. In summer months they slept under bridges. In winter they were housed overnight in shelters when there was room for them. She had not completed her high school education. So, at best, she was only able to find sporadic, temporary employment.

She had recently passed her G.E.D. and been accepted into a training program she believed would qualify her for permanent employment. In the past, she was unable to provide holiday celebrations for her children, and this was the first joyful Christmas her little family would know. She said she felt like there finally was light shining in their darkness, and that light was restoring her faith along with her hope.

At the conclusion of her tale, I more fully understood why her son asked the question. When mother and child reunited, they moved on to a table full of food. The aromas of roasted turkeys, hams and sweet potatoes, as well as a variety of fresh-baked pies filled the air. The little guy was literally pulling his mother toward the celebratory feast. Before they reached the table, he turned to look at me. I smiled and winked at him. He smiled back and attempted to wink by quickly blinking both eyes several times.

I left the church that night with elf bells jingling and pointed green shoes plodding along in a snow-covered parking lot. I thanked God for His mercies and for that little family. I felt gratitude for being allowed to be part of their celebration. As I considered what had just happened, I asked myself if I had ever really understood the true meaning of Christmas until that moment. Had I ever been such a close witness to hope offered to the hopeless? Had I previously, and intentionally, taken time from my busy schedule to observe others experiencing new life and another chance? Wasn’t that really what Christmas was supposed to be about?

While sitting in my car and watching snowflakes fall on the windshield, I reflected on the numerous times I had celebrated in beautifully decorated churches, sang carols, opened presents and enjoyed delicious food. Yet, I could not remember ever before feeling the peace and joy I unwrapped that night as I answered the simple question of a young child made wise by life on the streets but refusing to relinquish his precious sense of expectant hopefulness.

I can honestly testify that in an old church, on a wintry Denver night, in the presence of a child angel who relied on a secular elf to answer a sacred question, I was a recipient of the true blessing of Christmas. And I understood that every year, in the busyness of the worldly holiday season, there is one question that must never go unanswered: “Is Christmas for me too this year?”

~Laura L. Padgett

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