In two more sleeps it will be Christmas 2012. Bella has been counting on her fingers and reminds me every half hour. Her Dad took her to buy presents for everyone and she can’t wait for people to open them. (Even though each person already know what she’s bought for them because she accidentally whispered it super loud when that person was standing right there…) She keeps reminding me what Santa needs. What his reindeer need. She wants to know when are we going to bake Christmas cookies and deliver them to all our friends? (Yes, yes I am aware that this family has yet to bake a damn thing this December and very soon, if I’m not careful – the Christmas Baking Gift Delivery will become the Happy New Year’s Baking Delivery….or the Valentines Day baking Gift Delivery…So whats your point?! ) She is excited and happy. And that is the way it should be. Because she’s five years old and that’s what a child should feel at this time of year.
But I’m not really feeling excited and happy. I’m still sad that families in Connecticut, USA are having funerals for twenty children the same age and size as my Bella because somebody shot them in their elementary school with a military style assault rifle. And lots of other children the same age and size as my Bella who were in that same school that day had to endure that experience.
And I’m sad that at home in Samoa, so many families are still camping in evacuation centers because their homes got wiped out in Cyclone Evan. Some are mourning the loss of loved ones. Some are trying to salvage their personal belongings – and have to see neighbors walking past wearing their clothes, making off with their tools and appliances. ‘Finders keepers, losers weepers.’ I’m sad that so many small businesses are still cleaning out the mud and sewage from their stores, racking up all the losses from this disaster and trying not to go bankrupt, trying to decide whether or not they have the resources, the will to rebuild. To try again. Businesses like Coaches Corner, Pacific Jewell, JN Woodworkers and so many more. I’m sad that some homes still have no running water or electricity and I’m worried to hear about the growing number of typhoid cases.
So yes, two more sleeps to Christmas and there is much to be sad about. This will be a more restrained celebration this year. No excesses. Or over-the-top frivolous stuff. It doesnt feel right to drown in food and gifts and festive gatherings – when so many are facing great challenges. Instead, I am sad, and in that sadness, I am reflective. I am grateful.
Because this week my little sister had a baby. There were some complications after the birth and my sister required surgery but she and the baby are home now, resting and recovering. I haven’t met my new niece yet because they live in the Cook Islands, but as I look at the photo of this child, so perfectly beautiful and serene in her newness – I am grateful. For the reminder that even though lots of bad things happen, life can still be entangled with moments of joy. Sacredness. For the reminder that Christmas (for many) is about honoring the birth and precious gift of another baby, born long ago with a divine mission. So yes, there may not have been any herald angels singing over the Cook Islands for Emaraina – but she reminded me of celestial glory.
Because shortly after finding out that his daughter Emilie was one of the victims in the Sandy Hook shooting, Robert Parker, made this statement of love and compassion, “I’d like to offer our deepest condolences to all the families who were directly affected…this includes the family of the shooter and I want you to know that our love and support go out to you as well…my daughter would be one of the first ones giving her love and support to all of the victims because that’s the kind of person she is.” I don’t know if I could have that kind of strength, testimony and forgiveness had that been Bella. His example moves me. Reminds me that in the face of darkness, it is still possible to see the light – if one is looking for it – with faith and an eternal perspective. A grassroots campaign started this week on Twitter and has spread to many parts of the world called #26Acts of Kindness where individuals commit to rendering ‘random’ acts of service and generosity in memory of the slain, with only the plea to “Pass it Forward”. I’ve been tracking some of the service acts as they are posted online and they are diverse and widespread. Meaningful. Parker made an emotional plea for that spirit to be the legacy of this tragedy. “Let it not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate, and more humble people.” I am grateful for this reminder.
Because after they lost everything in the cyclone and only escaped with their lives by climbing on the roof with their small children – Vanessa Nieuwenhuizen wrote, “We are starting to feel that Heavenly Father has a better plan for us. We so appreciate all your prayers….love and concerns. We really do. We no longer cry over the things we have lost…instead…we cry because of the immense support from all of you. So thank you. In return, I express great love and continue to pray for Heaven’s blessings to be upon each of you. Here’s us Wishing you all the happiness in this Festive Season!” It is this kind of spirit that weathers storms, carries one through trials and makes it possible to still hope for the joy of a Christ-focused Christmas. I am grateful for this reminder.
Because of these things, I will rejoice in my daughter’s happiness this Christmas as she hangs up stockings and puts out carrots for reindeer. I will watch her eyes light up when she helps her brother open her gift to him – because she cant stand to wait another minute for him to (pretend) to be surprised and super-gleeful about the deoderant she bought for him. And I will smile a lot when children make a mess opening presents and make lots of noise playing with them.
But most of all, in two more sleeps, I will be grateful for the sacred opportunity to be a mother and to have my husband and children with me in peaceful, safe surroundings. Grateful for the gift of the Savior. Grateful for all that reminds us to be better, more compassionate and more humble people.
It is my hope and wish that your Christmas be the same.
Manuia le Kerisimasi.