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The Dichotomy of the Season

Can you believe we are eight days away from Christmas? Wasn’t it just summertime? Weren’t we just carving pumpkins? Some days I feel like I have stepped into a time machine that has caused my life to spin in triple time. I remember those long lazy summer days when I was a kid feeling so BORED and my mom wisely smiling and saying, “just you wait until you are older and your life starts flying before your eyes”. Now I smile at my own kids and tell them the same thing.  I am trying SO HARD to get into the “festive” holiday spirit, but this year I am finding it more and more difficult. I remember not that many years ago I would hear about the latest Neimann Marcus catalog and would laugh at the fact that someone would be buying their child their own diamond encrusted pony barn, but now I turn on the news and hear that some “lucky”child will be given her own replica of the Eiffel Tower on Christmas morning and I want to cry instead. I want to call the family and say, “do you know how many heart babies that would heal?” (I am a real downer at holiday parties……ha ha)
This weekend I took my six year old daughter to see the Nutcracker for the very first time. It was in downtown Oklahoma City, and all the lights were twinkling around the square. Anna put on her red holiday dress and was beyond excited. As we walked into the music hall and we saw the 40 foot high tree, and all the beautiful decorations, I caught myself once again thinking about all the children who at that very moment were sleeping in barren cribs, with no heat. I do this to myself all the time, and I vowed that tonight I would NOT think about orphaned children, and I would just enjoy the evening.
And so I looked around at all the happy families, and everyone had on holiday clothes, and the little girls were all dressed up for their night at the ballet. (I will not think of orphans…..I will not think of orphans……….. ) and then a woman walked in with her daughter and I broke that vow for the millionth time. Her little girl was an absolute vision. She had on a floor length velvet gown, with an underskirt that caused her dress to swirl out around her. She had on a white fur coat, and her mom had curled her blonde hair into hundreds of ringlets. And on the top of her head she had a diamond tiara. I think it was the tiara that brought the tears. And not because it was expensive, but because this mom had obviously spent so much time lovingly getting her little girl ready for a very special night out. I could just envision her bringing out the princess crown and saying, “THIS is a magical night and you deserve to look like a queen.” They were laughing and holding hands, and as they walked up the grand staircase it hit me once again full in my heart the disparity that exists in the world with children. Why are some children born to be treasured and others are born to know only pain? How many children in the world NEVER have a momma to do their hair and tell them, “today is a SPECIAL day.”
Sometimes I think I must be crazy…..and I will look around me to see if it looks like anyone else in the room is feeling like this. Is it normal to cry when your little boy steps up to homeplate, knowing that so many children around the world will never have that simple pleasure? Is it normal to go to the park and have to choke back tears watching children just enjoy the tiny thrill that comes from being able to play outside or zoom down a slide? Oh I hope so….because that is my normal now.

I so want to give my own children a feeling of JOY this season. But I find my head has two thoughts running at the exact same time every moment of the day.

Mom, can we bake cookies? *** 13 new babies are critical and we have nowhere to put them.

Mrs. Eldridge, can you send treats for the holiday party? ***** She has severe heart disease and might have lung damage.

Mom, can we go see Narnia? ***** Do you have the funds to help us? She is so sick and we feel she needs to be in the hospital.

Mom, where are my band shoes? **** If we can build this school they have a chance to learn to read and rise above their poverty.
Where shall we hang the ornaments? ***** I am sorry but he passed away……he was just too sick when we found him.
Can you take us shopping for gifts? ***** She was left weighing just 2 kg, she needs to move immediately to the hospital, do we have the funds?
The other night I turned off my computer and sat down to watch the ending of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. I remember when I first saw it (pre-China), and I thought that they should have ended the movie when Aragon turns to Frodo with the glorious backdrop of the mountains and castle and says “you kneel to no man”. After that the movie goes back to the Hobbit’s shire and I remember not really liking the way it was wrapped up….I wanted the GRAND ending.
So this time I was watching it and I jokingly said to my family, “maybe we should just stop it at the scene with Aragon and not watch the rest.” But of course we kept going, and then Frodo said something that made me realize that it was indeed the perfect ending. He said, “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on…when in your heart… you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold of you forever.” That summed up exactly what I have been feeling for so long after experiencing all that I have in China……..there is no going back. You cannot see children in real need and then just “turn it off”. Their faces will be with you forever. And you will see that same longing in every child around the world who needs someone to care for them….whether it is on a news program about children in the Sudan, or news pictures of children in Iraq, or in a new photo of a child needing surgery from an orphanage saying,”please, can you help?” You can’t turn off that intense desire to want to help them….because in your heart you know that the kids can’t turn off their sadness, or fear, or loneliness.
But I have realized recently that it is okay to have two thoughts always going at once. Because when your daughter looks up at you as the Sugar Plum Fairy comes out on the stage to dance, and whispers “isn’t she BEAUTIFUL, mommy?”……you can blink away the tears that come from knowing so many children will never have such a moment of pure wonder…..and remind yourself to CHERISH that very moment that God has put in your life. Every child on this earth is a blessing…..and we should never take for granted those little moments with our own children that remind us how very lucky we all are to have each other as family. THAT is what I am reflecting on this holiday season. How blessed we are to have the gift of children in this world……and how much they depend on adults to take care of them and make them feel safe. So I will treasure every hectic moment and smile as we hurtle towards Christmas day, while knowing that it is perfectly okay to also cry on the inside, for all of those kids who still wait.
Amy Eldridge

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