Been a while since the last post . . . who just said “Thank Goodness!” 🙂
Immersed in the midst of snow-bird packing to slightly warmer climes until next Spring, my wilderness roamings with camera have been curtailed as of late. Nevertheless, busyness does not negate extending Christmas greetings, so here’s a pic; a synopsis of our 2015; and a story that poignantly reminded me of the true spirit of the season to share.
Daily maintaining an eternal perspective on life is difficult. Unlike its front windshield – chipped, cracked, and oftimes foggy – life’s rear window is crystal-clear. Most times my gaze is necessarily focused forward, dealing with life in real-time; handling real issues; real people; real problems . . . myself being foremost 🙂 Then, watching 2015 fade in the rear-view mirror, I’m reminded what an amazingly gracious, ‘I Got This!’ Lord is ours, ever intervening to bring“…beauty for ashes…” in our lives we could have never imagined. A few, year- in-review, cases in point:
Front Windshield View (Ashes) – My beloved brother is called Home
Rear Window View (Beauty) – My brother no longer battles cancer, and someday we’ll be together again forever in Glory . . . PTL!
Front Windshield View (Ashes) – Large truck runs red light and T-bones our little ‘99 Suzuki, totaling it
Rear Window View (Beauty) – No one was uninjured, and insurance paid more than the car could have been sold for . . . PTL!
Front Windshield View (Ashes) – Long AK winters becoming ever more ‘challenging’ for ‘ole’ senior citizens
Rear Window View (Beauty) – An incredible ‘snowbird’ home in the Smokies becomes ours at an even more incredible price . . . PTL!
Toss in good friends, family, health, lifestyle, in a country where freedom still prevails, and we can sum up our 2015 in one word . . . Blessed Beyond Measure!!! Trust yours was as well, and 2016 proves the same on your journey towards Home. Merry Christmas Y’all !!!
Keep Looking Up
A Gift From the Heart
A true story by Norman Vincent Peale
New York City, where I live, is impressive at any time, but at Christmas approaches, it’s overwhelming. Store windows blaze with light and color, furs and jewels, Golden angels, 40 feet tall, hover over Fifth Avenue. Wealth, power, opulence – nothing in the world can match the fabulous display.
Through the gleaming canyons, people hurry to find last-minute gifts. Money seems to be no problem. If there’s a problem, it’s that the recipients so often have everything they need or want that it’s hard to find anything suitable, anything that will really say, “I love you.”
Last December, as Christ’s birthday drew near, a stranger was faced with just that problem. She had come from Switzerland, to live in an American home and perfect her English. In return she was willing to act as secretary, mind the grandchildren, do anything that was asked. She was a girl in her late teens. Her name was Ursula.
One of the tasks her employers gave Ursula was keeping track of Christmas presents as they arrived. There were many, and all would require acknowledgement. Ursula kept a faithful record, but with a growing concern. She was grateful to her American friends, and wanted to show her gratitude by giving them a Christmas present, but nothing that she could buy with her small allowance could compare with the gifts she was recording daily. Besides, even without these gifts, it seemed her employers already had everything.
At night, from her window, Ursula could see the snowy expanse of Central Park, and beyond the jagged skyline of the city. Far below, in the restless streets, Taxis hooted and traffic lights winked red and green. It was so different from the silent majesty of the Alps that at times she had to blink back tears of the homesickness she was careful never to show. It was in the solitude of her little room, a few days before Christmas, that a secret idea came to Ursula.
It was almost as though a voice spoke clearly inside her head. “It’s true,” said the voice, “that many people in this city have much more than you do. But surely there are many who have far less. If you will think about this, you may find a solution to what’s troubling you.”
Ursula thought long and hard. Finally on her day off. which was Christmas Eve, she went to a great department store. She moved slowly along the crowded aisles, selecting and rejecting things in her mind. At last she bought something, and had it wrapped in gaily-colored paper. She went out into the gray twilight and looked helplessly around. Finally, she went up to the doorman, resplendent in blue and gold. “Excuse me, please,” she said in her hesitant English, “can you tell me where to find a poor street?’
“A poor street?”, said the puzzled man.
“Yes, a very poor street. The poorest in the city.”
The doorman looked doubtful. “Well, you might try Harlem. Or down in the Village. Or the lower East Side, maybe.”
But those names meant nothing to Ursula. She thanked the doorman and walked along, threading her way through the stream of shoppers until she came to a tall policeman. “Please,” she said, “can you direct me to a very poor street… in Harlem?”
The policeman looked at her sharply and shook his head, “Harlem’s no place for you Miss.” And he blew his whistle and sent the traffic swirling past.
Holding her package carefully, Ursula walked on, head bowed against the sharp wind. If a street looked poorer than she was on, she took it. But none seemed like the slums she had heard about. Once she stopped a woman, “Please, where do the very poor people live?” But the woman gave her a hard stare and hurried on.
Darkness came sifting from the sky. Ursula was cold and discouraged and afraid of becoming lost. She came to an intersection and stood forlornly on the corner. What she was trying to do seemed suddenly foolish, impulsive, absurd. Then, through the traffic’s roar, she heard the cheerful tinkle of a bell. On the corner opposite, a Salvation Army man was making his holiday traditional appeal.
At once, Ursula felt better; the Salvation Army was a part of life in Switzerland too. Surely this man could tell her what she wanted to know. She waited for the light, and then crossed over to him, “Can you help me? I’m looking for a baby. I have here a little present for the poorest baby I can find.” And she held up the package with the green ribbon and the gaily-colored paper. Dressed in gloves and overcoat a size too big for him, he seemed a very ordinary man. But behind his steel-rimmed glasses his eyes were kind. He looked at Ursula and stopped ringing his bell. “What sort of present?” he asked.
“A little dress for a small, poor baby. Do you know of one?”
“Oh yes,” he said. “Of more than one I’m afraid.”
“Is it far away? I could take a taxi maybe?”
The Salvation Army man wrinkled his forehead. Finally he said, “It’s almost six o’clock. My relief will show up then. If you want to wait, and can afford a dollar taxi ride, I’ll take you to a family in my own neighborhood who needs just about everything.”
“And they have a small baby?”
“A very small baby.”
“Then,” said Ursula joyfully, “I wait!”
The substitute bell ringer came. A cruising taxi slowed. In its welcome warmth, she told her new friend about herself, how she came to be In New York, what she was trying to do. He listened in silence, and the taxi driver listened too. When they reached their destination the driver said, “Take your time Miss. I’ll wait for you.”
On the sidewalk Ursula stared up at the forbidding tenement – dark, decaying, saturated with hopelessness. A gust of wind, iron-cold, stirred the refuse in the street and rattled the reeling ashcans. “They live on the third floor,” the Salvation Army man said. “Shall we go up?”
But Ursula shook her head. “They would try to thank me, and this is not from me.” She pressed the package into his hand. “Take it up for me, please. Say it’s from…from someone who has everything.”
The taxi bore her swiftly from the dark streets to the lighted ones, from misery to abundance. She tried to visualize the Salvation Army man climbing the stairs, the knock, the explanation, the package being opened, the dress on the baby. It was hard to do.
Arriving at the apartment on Fifth Avenue where she lived, she fumbled in her purse. But the driver flicked his flag up. “No charge Miss.”
“No charge?” echoed Ursula, bewildered.
Don’t worry,” the driver said. “I’ve been paid.” He smiled at her and drove away.
Ursula was up early the next day. She set the table with special care. By the time she was finished, the family was awake, and there was all the excitement and laughter of Christmas morning. Soon the living room was a sea of gay discarded wrappings. Ursula thanked everyone for the presents she received. Finally, when there was a lull, she began to explain hesitantly why there seemed to be none from her. She told about going to the department store. She told about the Salvation Army man. She told about the taxi driver. When she was finished, there was a long silence. No one seemed to trust himself to speak. “So you see,” said Ursula, “I try to do kindness in your name. And this is my Christmas present to you.”
How do I know all of this? I know because ours was the home where Ursula lived. Ours was the Christmas she shared. We were like many Americans, so richly blessed that to this child there seemed to be nothing she could add to all the material things we already had. And so she offered something of far greater value: a gift from the heart, an act of kindness carried out in our name.
Strange, isn’t it? A shy Swiss girl, alone in a great impersonal city. You would think that nothing she could do would affect anyone. And yet, by trying to give away love, she brought the true spirit of Christmas into our lives, the spirit of selfless giving. That was Ursula’s secret, and she shared it with all of us.