Friday, December 20, 2013

A New Look At Christmas

I often feel like Scrooge at Christmas. I hate that so many unnecessary things cause us to lose focus on the real meaning: the pressure we put on ourselves to bake like Martha Stewart; to decorate like Pinterest and put it on Instagram; the crazy traffic and harried crowds to find THE perfect gift; the hollow look in the tired eyes of friends who are "stressed out" from all the hustle and bustle.

The best gift I ever received from my own parents was never found under the Christmas tree. Though I fondly remember sleepless nights as a child, wondering with anticipation if Santa was ever going to get there -- although I'd already opened and re-wrapped many of the gifts I was about to receive (Sorry Mom!). The gift was that of unconditional love and acceptance, an instilling of confidence and self worth that to this day keeps me secure and grounded, and is something that I strive to help provide to my own children.

Working with the women of Magdalene on a daily basis has opened my eyes to the sad reality, that far too many children grow up without that security of a stable, loving home, and has made me realize all the more what a true gift it has been.

This year, for the first time I had the privilege to attend a party for the Magdalene women, which is hosted every year by The Farm at Natchez Trace. When one resident came to me, with tears in her eyes, telling me that Santa was coming to the party, I wanted to cry as well. She explained how all her life, she'd wanted to meet Santa, but her mom would never take her. Later that night, unable to sleep from all the excitement of the evening and the snow falling, in the wee hours of the morning, she made her first snowman.

Another woman about my age, tearfully told us that never, ever, ever, in her entire life, had anyone so much as asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Her eyes lit up the room, when she opened her gift, and saw the laptop, a gift that will help her as she goes back to school, and works toward her goal of graduating with her daughter. It is a gift of hope that goes far beyond one night. A gift that tells her she is loved. Something tangible that will remind her when things get hard, she has a whole community behind her who loves her, supports her, and wants nothing but the best for her future.

Every gift unwrapped represented joy and hope, and for a moment so much pain was forgotten. The Farm did an outstanding job of blessing each woman with the perfect gift for her. Every coat fit perfectly. Every gift was well thought out, and exactly what each woman had hoped for, or more. Beyond the actual gifts themselves though, was the meaning behind them, that they truly are loved. And we all know that Love Heals.

Throughout the night there were many tears, much laughter, some jumping up and down, lots of dancing and shouts of joy all over. I can't even begin to describe what a blessing it was to be a part of it! I I even forgot all the things I dislike  about the Christmas season. The absolute joy in the room the entire evening was palpable. I took far too many pictures. I wanted to capture every moment, so I could savor them later. My heart is full.

For a slideshow of more photos from the Christmas party, click HERE.

By Marcie Brolund
RN and Thistle Farms Volunteer

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