Here we are again, welcoming the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season has begun with Thanksgiving, Black Friday shopping, football and school vacation.
We can’t leave out holiday movies, the 12 Days of Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, New Year’s Eve and a whole lot of promises made for the coming year. And then it’s football playoffs, the Super Bowl and, for all us romantics, Valentine’s Day.
Man oh man, does it get any better than this?
It does get better for those of us who can spend time with friends and family to renew old ties and celebrate the ties that bind. We reminisce about the past, get reacquainted and realign our relationships with loved ones and close friends.
We dearly miss those who have been called away or called home to be with our Heavenly Father. To many in our community, the holidays will be a time of reunion with loved ones deployed in our military or separated by miles, states and countries. This season, above all others, has a flavor all its own. For many of us, that flavor is joy and happiness.
But for many others, it is a dreaded time — even frightening, despairing, unwanted and empty, devoid of the joy and feelings most of us take for granted. There are people among us — next door, in the same household, family or work environment — who wish it would all go away. They face declining health, loss of loved ones or relationships, unpleasant memories of the past, loneliness, feelings of being unwanted or anti-social and overwhelming stress or loss of faith and hope.
I remember well the Christmas of 1963 and a true gentleman named Charlie Krantz. Old Charlie, as we knew him, was a veteran and also a veteran of 83 Christmas seasons.
I delivered newspapers then and every day would personally bring Charlie’s to him, knocking on his door to specially deliver his Daily Advocate. He would always ask me to sit awhile and talk. He was a kind and gentle man of very limited means, but very rich in faith and a walking history book of tales and experience.
Regardless of his great spirit and nature, the holidays were really rough on him. His family was gone — he had outlived them all. I would sit in awe, closely listening many times to stories from his past about his family, his work for 50 years and the places he’d been.
But what I noticed and remember in great detail was the look in his eyes as they teared up as he spoke of holidays past and his wife and children, and how he was now all alone.
Many times, just like a switch had been turned, he would excuse himself and say that he wasn’t feeling well and had to lie down for a while. We lost Charlie the next year, but I will never forget what he said or that look of despair in his eyes.
All of us know our own Charlie. We live with them, near them or know of them. They come in many sizes, shapes, colors, genders and ages.
This is a busy time of the year for the Stephen Ministry and for every ministry around us. We meet almost daily with people who believe they — or their loved ones — are celebrating Christmas for perhaps the last time. Sometimes they can’t find closure and management for their grief, separation, estrangement or other issues in their lives. The holidays bring out the best in many of us and the worst for others.
Please plan this holiday season to give the gift of love and caring and a little of the most important gift for someone you meet or know — the gift of time.
Scherer is the Stephen Ministry’s crisis intervention minister.