Heart and Soul of Christmas

With the Holiday season fast approaching I am reminded every year of the people in our city, country and around the world who go without food, clothing or shelter during a season that often seems to be about plenty.  There are people who literally go hungry or have nothing more than maybe boxed macaroni and cheese or peanut butter sandwiches to eat for Christmas dinner.

Thinking about these people, along with some curiosity, motivated me to start volunteering at a food pantry our church hosts every month.  Initially my heart was full of nobility and self-congratulating that I gave up my time and energy to help feed the hungry in our city.  After my first time helping at the pantry my noble pride became compassion as I began to hear the stories of the people who came to our food pantry.

Let me tell a story about one of the ladies who visits our food pantry. Her name is Mary, she is probably in her early 50’s with multiple health issues. Mary needs dialysis every day to stay alive. Her health is generally in very poor condition and she has many issues such as diabetes that complicates much of her life.

Recently Mary’s daughter overdosed on heroin and left two little girls, 3 & 6 years old, without a mother or a father. Mary, grieving the loss of her daughter, now was tasked with taking care of these two little girls.  A month later Mary’s son was shot and killed in the streets, a drug deal gone bad. Mary’s son had two children as well, a son who is 14 and a daughter who is 11.  Mary was the only relative who would and could take these children into her home. I remember sitting and crying with Mary over the loss of her children and the overwhelming burden of now needing to care for 4 children.

With Mary’s health issues and four children to care for, her expenses rose dramatically. Monthly disability checks were not enough.  Her children didn’t have life insurance or a savings. The cost of raising the grandchildren all fell onto Mary. It is an overwhelming burden. I am so grateful that our food pantry can help Mary and perhaps help lighten her burden a little. Mary and her grandchildren will have a Christmas dinner this year.

There are many Marys out there, her story is not unique.  As we move through this holiday season with all its joys and abundance, let’s think about the Mary’s in our world. As we celebrate with our loved ones and enjoy the warmth of Christmas, let’s not forget to look for people to help and bless during the holidays who might not be as fortunate as we are.