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A Season for Transformation

There is a wonderful Christmas store in our area. Way in the back in a little corner of the shop is a small sign that reads "Christmas Spoken Here." Wouldn't it be great if we ...

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There is a wonderful Christmas store in our area. Way in the back in a little corner of the shop is a small sign that reads "Christmas Spoken Here." Wouldn't it be great if we spoke and lived those words three hundred and sixty-five days a year?

The theme of this time of year transcends our specific religious traditions. For Christians, first and foremost it is the birth of the Savior. That gift hopefully empowers us to share the message of Christmas everywhere.

Christmas is supposed to be a time for reflection, for remembering and for reaching out to others. It is a celebration of the untapped possibilities for goodness that lives in each of us.

This time of year, when properly embraced, fosters the potential for change and transformation. It is a time of year to be grateful for all of our blessings. It is a time to find simple ways to say thank you. It really is not about the gifts, noise and self-indulgence.

The Christmas/Holiday card originated a few hundred years ago as a way of expressing affection and appreciation for the people in our life during the Christmas and Holiday season.

Today many of us have an A list and B list when it comes to Christmas cards. The A list is the top of the line, the best of the best; the B list card, at best, is mediocre.

As you know, Christmas and Holiday cards are a billion dollar business. Our technology eliminates any need for human touch or emotion to be involved in the sending out of cards.

We are so distracted at this time of year that many of us don't have time to write our cards; never mind send cards to a B list. Although the cards in and of themselves are thoughtful, more and more cards are devoid of any personal and human touches. For many, it is one of those obligations, like inviting the in-laws you cannot stand to Christmas dinner. Your heart just is not in it.

What would happen if we suspended the traditional form of gift giving next Christmas? That is to say you cannot buy someone a gift from the store or on line. The only kind of gift that could be given would have to be handmade or a handmade card with a special Christmas message.

Probably this proposal would cause a revolution in many households. However, if we took it seriously, it might help us bring back the spirit of this time of year.

Most of us, no matter what our religion, have seen or will watch "It's A Wonderful Life." The film shows us that although George is not financially secure, after the angel gets his wings, George has what really matters most: the love of his wife and children and the richness of many friends.

Christmas is a difficult time of year for many of us, especially for those who feel lonely, estranged and rejected. Sometimes simple gestures can make all the difference. A phone call, an unexpected visit or a handwritten note - these random acts of kindness can help to transform another's life, especially if they feel shackled by life's burdens.

It is amazing how many people are moved to reach beyond themselves during the holiday season. Wouldn't it be great if the holiday spirit was contagious and extended throughout the year?

Right after Thanksgiving, a well-dressed man in his early forties stopped in to make an appointment to see me. When asked by the secretary what it was about, all he would say was that it was personal.

Our appointment time came. TK was punctual. He began the conversation by saying that I probably would not remember him. He spoke about how when he was seventeen and down and out, the ministry had saved his life.

Twenty-three years ago, he was running with the wrong crowd. His Dad died when he was fifteen and he took out all his anger on his Mom, to the point where he was not welcome at home.

TK left home at seventeen. He lived here, there and everywhere. It was Christmas 1982. He had burnt most of the bridges with the people who cared about him. Any friendships were fractured and in need of serious attention. He was a mess.

A friend who was worried about him dropped him off on Christmas Eve. That year, Christmas Eve was very cold and snowy.

A couple of the older guys welcomed him in and showed him to his room. He was able to take a hot shower and get cleaned up, which had not happened in weeks. He was also given new clothes.

In his recounting of this twenty-three year old experience, he mentioned that all of the kindness was extended to him before anyone inquired as to why he was homeless on Christmas Eve. It almost did not matter.

He felt safe for the first time since his Dad's death. He said he was overwhelmed.
He went to the Candlelight Christmas Eve service and was shocked to see the diversity of the crowd. Everyone welcomed him, even though he was a stranger.

After Mass, he went with the other guys to the house to open up Christmas presents. He was overwhelmed that there was a pile with his name and things he wanted and needed. He did not just get the leftovers. No one had ever treated him that kindly.

An extended family member reached out to TK and welcomed him into his home. He left on January 2, 1982 and we had not heard from or seen him since.

His father's brother took him in that January and became his second family. They lived out of state, but that was okay. TK went back to high school and graduated. He attended a local college and then went on to a state university. He majored in human relations.

Once he graduated, he immediately landed a good job. He was quickly promoted and went on to get his masters' degree.

Today TK is the CEO of a small company in the Midwest. This year he felt compelled to bring his young son back to a place that made all the difference in his life.

It was a Christmas he has never forgotten. Total strangers welcoming him into their home, treating him like he was a somebody at a point in his life when he felt he had nothing and was nothing.

TK thanked me profusely for those few days of hospitality he was given when he needed them most. He never told me his real name. He gave me a sweater that he said was identical to the one I gave him twenty-three years ago and asked that I give it to a young person who might need it this Christmas.

He told me that Christmas has never been the same since that Christmas Eve twenty-three years ago. In the midst of his despair was born the hope that his life could be more and that he could make a difference that counts.

That hour-long conversation only reminded me of the real reason for this season. It is about reaching out and touching others. It is about helping them feel worthwhile and valued. It is a spirit that could be contagious, if we tried.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa! May this season touch your hearts with inner peace!