I was enjoying a leisurely afternoon as I sat on a bench in front of the Gazebo, absorbing a huge patch of sunlight that shone forth amidst the shade. People strolled by and we greeted each other with a nod, a smile, or a friendly “hello.” A woman approached and asked to sit down beside me. Although we were meeting for the first time and hadn’t even exchanged names, she began a lengthy monologue. Suddenly, her eyes filled with tears and her sadness overflowed as she shared her sorrow with me.
We’re in the midst of the happiest season of the year; decorating our homes, buying those special gifts, preparing to celebrate with family. It’s the most joyful time of the year. But what if it isn’t? Some folks are spending the holidays in the shadow of other people’s joy.
A tree laid bare by sorrow. Unopened boxes of tinsel and ornaments. Santa won’t be visiting this year. The six-year-old’s cancer was, indeed, terminal.
Across town, a family visits a nursing home. “Hi Grandma.” The little ones fling their arms around her neck. Vacant eyes look back. “Merry Christmas. By the way, do I know you?”
A mom drops a letter to Santa in the mailbox as she heads to work, and on the way home exchanges it for a pink slip. A Christmas gift from her boss.
“Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” Empty words for those who are suffering. The stranger beside me on the bench served as a reminder that some friends and family members may be hiding their true feelings beneath their holiday smiles. It could be a sad event that we already know about. Or we might just sense from their demeanor that something isn’t quite right. We can’t make the source of the unhappiness go away with our words. But we can communicate our compassion through our eyes, a comforting hand on the shoulder, or a hug with words unspoken.
For those of you who are struggling through this holiday season, I offer you my prayers that you will find comfort and that by Christmas 2020 there will be joy in your life once again.