For most folks, thoughts of Christmas are “merry and bright,” but for others Christmas brings mostly sadness. Broken relationships. Loss of loved ones. Personal failures. Regrets. These all seem to be magnified this time of year, especially when we compare our lives to the picture-perfect families presented on the Hallmark Channel or in Publix commercials.
Christmas can be blue for children, too. Think about it. For some children in Blount County, their biggest Christmas wish is not a toy, but that Daddy will stay sober. Other children pray that Mama will come home. Others hope that Mama’s boyfriend won’t hurt them again.
Liz Murray, in her biography “Breaking Night,” describes being raised by drug-addicted parents. One year, she writes, people from the local church presented her family with a beautiful Christmas turkey, then her father traded it away for drugs.
My saddest Christmas memory is of a girl who lived with my wife and me at a group home where we were house parents. Every Christmas, for years and years, she would rise before dawn, put on her nicest outfit, fix her hair, and sit by the front window, waiting for her mother to come and visit. The girl wouldn’t budge. She sat there for hours. Waiting. We were there eight Christmases. Her mother never came. Not once…
Why do I tell these stories? To remind you and me to be more keenly aware of the hurting children around us this holiday season. And to encourage you to make a positive difference in a child’s life this Christmas. Toys are fun. Presents are nice. But nothing impacts the life of a child like the gift of time. Your time. Maybe you could go out for pizza, or put together a jigsaw puzzle, or bake cookies, or toss a football. Use your imagination. Take a chance. And have a real conversation.
Children will eventually forget what presents they received this Christmas, but they will always remember the time you spend with them. Mr. Rogers loved to say, “Anyone who takes time to help a child is a hero to me.” Won’t you be someone’s hero this holiday season?
-Jim Ed Clayton, Oneonta