As Christmas comes ever closer, I wanted to share a story about Christmas three years ago that has been on my mind a lot recently. It doesn’t necessarily fit with any of my themes for this year, but I figure since it’s about Christmas and I’m transitioning blog focuses anyway I’d just go for it. It’s about a small act of kindness that made enough of an impression that years later here I am writing about it…
It was Christmas Eve and I was less than a month away from giving birth to our second kid. I think this story has been coming back into my thoughts because that Christmas I was big enough to play Mary in the nativity story and I’m probably going to be about that big again this year (even though I’m due 2.5 weeks later this time around…)
Due to how family plans shaped up for that year, we realized we only had one mass we could really plan to attend. Christmas Eve evening (as opposed to midnight mass which I hope to get back to some day… but I’m just not up for it in this season…) mass seemed like it would be a good choice and possibly less crowded than Christmas Day. We figured if we got there 30-45 minutes early that we wouldn’t have to stress about getting a seat as opposed to the hour early you usually have to get there on Christmas Day. Well… we were very wrong.
See, what we didn’t know, because our firstborn was only 2 at the time and not yet in catechesis or old enough to have friends that went to the elementary school associated with the church, is that the Christmas Eve Evening mass is when the elementary school kids have their Christmas pageant. So every parent and extended family member of a kid in the pageant is there at least as early as their kids have to be dropped off, and not only do they need space for themselves, they also want space for their video recorders (I think at least these days most people just have their phones… but there were certainly still some tripods going on that year…)
It was to my horror when we tried to find parking 40 minutes early that it was kind of an impossibility. after circling the parking lot wondering if there was another mass time we hadn’t seen that was going to let people out and clear out some spaces, we finally decided on the plan to drop my son and I off while my husband parked a few streets away, the closest parking spots.
So there I was, nine months pregnant dragging a two year old into mass to try and find seats. It felt hopeless. And it also felt like a very teachable moment giving me just the smallest glimpse into the frustration and despair Mary must have felt at practically 10 months pregnant and being told over and over again that there was no room in the inn. After going up and down the church aisles I resorted to trying to squeeze my way up the steps to the choir loft that is used for extra seating. It was also packed. I was trying very hard not to have a spell of hormonal weeping by this point and my 2 year old was on the verge of a breakdown from all the walking up and down and really just wanting to get to Christmas Eve dinner anyway.
That’s when someone asked if I’d like their seat. It was a father who was there with his family. A family who was shooting him dagger eyes for this proposition because not only did they want to sit together (understandably!), they also knew that I was clearly going to take up more room than the gentleman offering up his seat did. I felt awkward and guilty about accepting his offer, but also my insistent toddler and my swelling feet told me I’d be really crazy and probably wouldn’t make it through mass without accepting it. So I did. And I was so grateful I wanted to cry. He and my husband stood the entire mass and that small act of kindness kept us from what probably would have ended with us missing Christmas service all together. I’ve been thinking about that guy and how, while it was probably not how he wanted to spend the hour, his small act of kindness is something that meant so very much to me, and in the end it didn’t really cost him much. It’s kind of the same with the inn keeper, right? He was already making plenty of money as his establishment was at full capacity, and while I’m sure it was anything but convenient to make space in his inn, in the end it didn’t cost him much, and he’s now a part of one of the greatest stories/moments in history.
As we approach Christmas this year and I am once again in my third trimester, I am not only thinking about how we better get to any mass we pick crazy early, I am also thinking about ways I can make little sacrifices that might make a big difference for someone struggling. Sometimes it helps to remember that putting more goodness in the world doesn’t have to be through a monetary means. It can be giving up your seat, encouraging a mom with a melting down kid at the grocery store or Target, sending a quick card of encouragement, and so many more options. I am also thinking of how I can have these kind of discussions with my kids about how they can model kindness and giving of themselves in their day to day lives- at school, at home, when we are out as a family, etc. It is harder than I’d like to admit during this season of busyness, excitement, and where my focus is on my family and our own traditions to see charity as something to check of the list instead of something to be lived day to day. I don’t have a super profound way to wrap up this post; I’m just hoping this story will help start similar conversations in your family too.