I have been mystified.
It started sometime in the past ten years - when it seemed to suddenly become inappropriate to wish someone a Merry Christmas. 'Happy Holidays' is somehow more politically correct. Someone, society maybe, is trying to suck Christ out of Christmas.
I decided years ago to fight it. I will say 'Merry Christmas' and I'll mean it. I'm not trying to squelch anybody else's beliefs - but I will not deny my own.
Then I noticed, every time I wish a heart-felt 'Merry Christmas' to a stranger in a store - I get a knot in my throat and tears in my eyes. A bit mystifying. A bit disturbing. Am I struggling internally with forcing my faith on someone else? Or is it just an extension of my inability to sing hymns in church without being moved to tears?
Am I a true Christian sharing my faith, or am I just making lip service by wishing someone a Merry Christmas?
Last night I rushed into a Ross store after work to pick up some cheap supplies for our Christmas celebration. Serving spoons, a nice platter - that sort of thing - without having to drop a lot of cash. I'm unemployed/underemployed again this year and I'm not buying Christmas gifts for my whole family - so I certainly didn't want to go overboard on supplies.
After I checked out and was walking to my car, a woman sitting in the entryway greeted me.
"How are you tonight?" she asked.
"Good and you?
"I'm homeless." she said.
"Oh no." I replied. "Can I help you with anything?"
"Can you give me money for a warm cup of coffee?"
"Sure." I pulled out $5 and handed it to her, figuring she could get that and something to eat at the pancake house next door.
"I could use a blanket to keep warm." she offered.
I thought for second, realizing that I could go back into the store and get her a blanket or a comforter from the home department. Then I remembered the blanket I keep in the trunk of my car in case of being stranded. I went and got it for her.
When I returned, she slipped her feet out of her cheap, ill-fitting sneakers. They were bandaged and crusty and swollen. She told me that she'll get Disability in two weeks but for now she has nothing. She said her foot was swelling quickly.
I thought about the City Mission, but reasoned that she must know about it and if she wasn't already there she probably didn't want to be there. (I could be wrong.) I wondered if there was a cheap motel nearby where I could get her a room for $20. I wanted to help, I told her, but I just got laid-off myself and don't have a lot of money. (I felt a bit of a lie - as I am struggling for the lifestyle I am accustomed to... but I have plenty.)
I looked at her feet again. "Do you have socks?"
"Let's see if we can get you some warm boots."
She sprang from her seat and followed me to the shoe department where I learned she wears a size 11. Of course there were only about five items in the size 11 section - so we settled on a pair of fuzzy lined, rubber soled slippers with plenty of room for her swollen, bandaged foot and a pair of socks.
It cost about $15.
I figured I'm not buying anyone else gifts, I can at least do this. ( I could probably do more.)
I met her back at the entryway and told her I hope they would be warm.
She asked if she could come stay at my house that night.
I said I didn't have room. (I mean, what do you do?)
I wondered if she went to the hospital for her foot if they would keep her overnight and before I said it aloud, realized they wouldn't. I didn't know what to do. How else I could help. (Frankly, without inconveniencing myself more.)
I did sincerely want to help, but I also didn't want her sleeping on my couch.
And now I am still struggling. I did show her kindness - but was I Christ-like?
I turned to leave and wished her a Merry Christmas - there was no knot in my throat, and no welling of tears - and she is the first person who wished it back with real sincerity in her voice.