It has become my tradition to share this poem with you as one year ends and we embark upon another. Every year I read it and appreciate what it has to say. Never has it been more meaningful to me than it is now.
My mother gave me a copy of this prayer many years ago so sharing it is also a tribute to her.
My prayer is that each of you will be blessed this way in 2021.
NEW YEAR PRAYER
May God make your year a happy one,
Not by shielding you from sorrow and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, if it comes.
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy enough to travel any path.
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking all cowardice and fear from your heart.
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows.
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you where man and his cause need you most,
And by making you anxious to be there, and to help.
My Christmas gift for you is one of my favourite Christmas memories. It was first published in the anthology, Christmas, Stories & More and then republished in my book Another Perspective.
My earliest Christmas memories are not of coloured lights or gifts under the tree. They are not even of fun and laughter shared at family gatherings. Instead, they are of something I looked forward to with great anticipation. The sweet smell made my mouth water and I could hardly wait to have a bite of the juicy goodness.
It may sound strange, but my fond memories are of a fruit that came in little wooden boxes. Mandarin oranges seemed like an exotic treat because they were available for so short a time.
I grew up in a family of five children. My sister, Barb, fourteen years older, was living on her own when I was very young, so she posed no competition for these treats. Two older brothers, Dave and Rob, were teenagers and could devour a box of oranges in an afternoon, leaving non for my little brother Tim and me.
To ensure everyone got their fair share, my mom would purchase a separate box for Tim and me. I clearly remember her counting the oranges in the box and dividing them evenly between us. Mom warned us, “This is all you will get. It’s up to you when you eat them, but you need to know, if you eat them all today, there won’t be any more.”
I took this to heart and hid the bag of oranges in my room, determined to enjoy them for as long as possible.
Tim tried to make his last, but they were so tasty, he’d soon finish his share. Before long, he’d be at my bedroom door begging for just one more.
There was no way I was going to part with any of mine. It wasn’t fair to expect me to look favourably on him just because he was only five and I was eight. Tim would ask mom to make me share. She’d patiently explain that he knew the rules and I could do whatever I wanted with my oranges.
I remember seeing an extra box of oranges that we weren’t allowed to touch. There was no explanation and one day the whole box was missing. Later, one of my older brothers shed some light on this mystery. He said Mom had told him he couldn’t open this box because Dad was taking them to the renters.
Our dad rented a small house to a single mom with young children. Mandarin oranges were expensive and he knew they couldn’t afford them. Dad wanted them to enjoy this treat as much as we did, so he was going to deliver the box to them. In my brother Rob’s words, “Our greedy little pleading faces had no impact on him whatsoever.”
Dad ensured we had all we needed and then quietly shared the abundance with others less fortunate. If Mom hadn’t told us, we never would have known of his generosity.
My quiet, unassuming dad unknowingly taught me to give without seeking attention. To some, giving a box of oranges may not seem like a big deal. To that family, it showed someone cared.
Christmas is a time when people openly show compassion and generosity. I had the opportunity to witness a modest example of this, and is the reason that some of my fondest Christmas memories revolve around mandarin oranges.
And yes, I did eventually give in and share with my little brother. Not because I had to, but because I learned how good it feels to freely share.
The elderly man we passed in the stairwell used broken English and hand gestures to convey his message. We smiled and nodded, even though we weren’t sure what he was trying to tell us. All we knew was it had something to do with the stairs.
Although our assigned underground parking spot is next to the elevator, we routinely walk to the end of the hall and take the stairs. That is why it was several days after our encounter before I fully understood what this gentleman had attempted to convey.
A glance at the elevator as I passed caused me to stop and read the notice posted there. It was dated a few days earlier and informed us the elevator was out of order until the end of the week.
This situation would be inconvenient when we carried groceries in but was something we could still manage. It would be much more difficult for those in our building with mobility issues, such as the elderly man we saw who slowly made his way down the stairs. Some would be trapped, unable to exit the building without the elevator they relied on.
Being trapped at home is something many of us are experiencing right now. Restrictions on gathering together mean our Christmas will be spent at home and not with our loved ones.
I am one of the lucky ones. As much as I’d like to be with our children and grandchildren at Christmas, I am not alone. My husband and I will spend a quiet Christmas together. Through technology we will be able to connect with our family and watch them open their gifts.
There are many who will spend the day alone. I can’t invite others into my home right now but can reach out and let them know they haven’t been forgotten. Maybe being trapped at home this year will give me more opportunity to share the joy and love of the Christmas season.
My hands retreated inside my jacket sleeves. I flexed my fingers in an attempt to warm them up. My ears stung as another blast of arctic wind buffeted my body. I definitely wasn’t dressed properly for this morning’s walk.
I should know by now that sunshine doesn’t necessarily mean warmth. When I first stepped outside, the coolness surprised me. My body told me to go back for a hat and gloves. My mind said it wasn’t that bad and I’d been warm enough once I started walking. I listened to my body and set off at a brisk pace.
The first twenty minutes weren’t too bad. But now, I was more than two kilometers from home and paying the price for my lack of preparation.
Have you ever underestimated the time something would take or the resources needed and ended up not properly prepared? It’s happened to me more times than I can count.
I may not repeat the same mistake but seem to discover plenty of new ones on a similar theme.
Upon further examination, the problem might not be lack of preparation but an abundance of pride. There is usually some type of warning that I fail to heed, thinking I can handle the situation in my own way. Unfortunately, in these instances, the outcome is not what I had hoped for.
When I admit I don’t have all the answers and use common sense (like dressing for the weather), there is less chance I’ll be left out in the cold.