Friday, December 18, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

When we were kids, we spent Christmas Eve traveling to my grandparent's farm and back, all in the same day. My parents didn't want to miss the big family get-together, but they felt strongly that we kids should all wake up in our own beds on Christmas morning. (Secretly, I think they were trying to get us to sleep a little longer . . . to no avail.)

This four hour one-way trip done twice in one day kind of prevented the establishment of Christmas Eve traditions, but we still managed to have some good times.

We spent the drive home listening to The Forgotten Carols, counting Moravian stars, making drawings in the mist we breathed onto the windows and scanning the sky for a glimpse of Santa Claus. Somehow, the magic was preserved even though we were not "nestled all snug" in our beds.

One year, about two hours away from home, our car died. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but it was cold and late and when we coasted into a gas station from some obscure exit ramp, all the lights were off and there seemed to be no one around for miles -- no houses, no cars, no civilization. On Christmas Eve, with four little kids, in a van that didn't work.

Suddenly, from out of no where, we saw headlights. A big Cadillac pulled up behind our minivan, and a man in what I can only describe as a gold lame' jumpsuit got out of the car and approached my dad's window.

"Do y'all need some help?"

He volunteered to drive us to a hotel so we would have a warm place to sleep and help us find a tow in the morning. We piled into his big boat of a car. I felt so special to sit in the front between this kind stranger and his big-haired blond wife in a fur coat. My mom and dad sat in the back with MommyJ and our brothers, and we were on our way.

My mom says she and Dad started to get worried when he kept passing hotels on the interstate. Mass murderer? Crazy mental asylum escapee? One after another, after another, he just drove on past. Finally, my dad spoke up . . . aren't you going to stop? This motel would be just fine.

"No, sir. Children should be home on Christmas Eve."

And he kept on driving until we arrived home at 3 AM on Christmas morning.

I don't remember what gifts were under the tree when we awoke later on; I don't remember what we ate or who we saw or anything else about that day. But I will forever be thankful for the kindness shown to my family that cold, cold night years ago.

This year, I have spent too much time away from my family. I have not been around for bedtime since December 3. Instead, my evenings have been filled with rehearsals and performances, choir practices, church meetings, office parties and other things that seemed so important when I was committing my time to them. After two concerts last Saturday night, I came home and checked on my little ones just to remember what they look like.

So, in memory of Roger and Teddy, who got us home for Christmas, I pledge to say No! And to really mean it! Roger was right . . . children should be home for Christmas, but so should their parents. In this season that ends up being the busiest of the year, why don't we all simplify? Why do we feel so compelled to fill our time with things that are less important than those things that are real?

Next year, I promise to do better.

Forgive me, but I love this story, and when I originally posted it last year, I had about 5 readers. And they only read what I wrote because they share my DNA, and didn't want to disappoint me when I called (pathetically) 15 minutes after I posted to make sure they'd read it. Hope you liked it!

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  1. I love it. I'm glad you re-posted it!

    Merry, Merry Christmas.

  2. Great story. And, YES. Let's say a little more "no" here, too.

  3. I love this story. I'm going to dress in a gold lame (imagine the accent mark) and do something ot rescue someone.

  4. This is a great story. I've been under scheduled this year and I've really enjoyed it. I may say a little more no next time the calendar starts to get full.

  5. Well I feel so special that I actually read it last year too! ;)

  6. What a poignant memory - thank you for sharing it!

  7. I'm very glad you re-posted! It has made me contemplate a lot of things.

    First, I love that those people were so willing to drive so far to get you home on Christmas. I don't know how willing I would be to do such a thing.

    Second, I am always over-scheduled during this season. This year has been better, but I am not taking advantage of it.

  8. I remember this from last year and loved it then too.
    Great reminder.
    Do you make sure your kids wake up in their own beds?

  9. Liked it? This is the kind of story you read in the Ensign. Loved it.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Your post made me sigh with contentment! What a blessing to have people who love with their hearts and hands!!!

    This year, for the first time, I've said no at Christmas. No, to extra purchases, no, to extra nights out, no, stressing out and getting crabby because there is still so much to be done. I'm savoring and playing with my kids this Christmas, (okay, not as much as I should, but more than I ever have in December), and it feels peaceful, and calm and happy in a sweet fill-you-up kind of way.

    I've been a mom for MANY more Christmases than you have. I refuse to even think about the years of Christmas when I tried to do too much and ended up stressing out the family. Instead I'm just going to enjoy this one and press forward!

  11. That i an awesome story. With all the junk that happens, I love being reminded that good people are out there too!

    Question, what's a Moravian star?

  12. Someone recently said, "December is for musicians what April is for accountants". This year, though, I haven't had ANY music commitments besides my piano recital. And I gotta tell you, it's been really nice.

    One reason I love the Christmas music scene is the rehearsals. Even when I was conducting, I much preferred rehearsal to performance. So by the time all of those concerts rolled around, I secretly hoped they would be snowed out! (Guess I should have been working in Minnesota instead of Las Vegas, huh?)


Sock it to me!