I got a phone call today from a complete stranger. Well, not completely a stranger--I've mailed him Christmas cards two years in a row now. You see, he lives in a small town near Tremonton, Utah, which is where some of my husband's family lives. I address our Christmas cards to entire families, so the card said, "The Petersen Family" and since that is indeed this guy's name, he opened it up. He told me that I have a really nice looking family. He said he enjoyed last year's card too, but that he assumed that the card was probably not intended for him. We laughed and I told him that it sounded like we should be good friends by this time--two years of Christmas cards after all. He said he figured he should probably be sending me a card this year too.
The whole incident reminded me of my husband's favorite children's book, "Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch" by Eileen Spinelli. It's a really sad story of a man who lives his life doing the same things every day--gets up at the same time, eats the same food every day for lunch and though he sees the same people each day, he never takes the time to smile or inquire after their lives. His world is so small and so depressing.
Then, one day he gets a huge--imagine using both arms--box in the mail. Their is no return address nor is their a sender provided. The card attached simply says, "Someone loves you." This anonymous gift changes Mr. Hatch's life. He suddenly starts looking at the people around him and trying to get to know them and serve them and he finds out that there is happiness all around him if he will just open himself up to it. This is not the end of the book--there's a twist ending--but you really should get the book, a box of tissues and sit down for a read.
It made me think about how this holiday season I have been running around planning huge dinners for the women at church, printing and mailing Christmas cards, cleaning the house to host the huge dinner, shopping for all the people in my life and feeling mostly totally overwhelmed and stressed out. Of course my children bear the brunt of this. Why is it that this happens? Why do we let the stress in our lives manifest itself in negative ways to those closest to us? How do we get so busy doing good things that those good things start to lose their true meaning with what we have to give up to accomplish them?
It's not a total loss though. I did get that dinner all done and yesterday I enjoyed these beautiful children God gave me. We read stories again, we did violin lessons, we talked, we joked. We were the type of family I want us to be every day. I love this holiday season. I hope that I can keep it a time of year where the Spirit of Christ can speak to me because I'm listening.