Here is a Christmas story that shook my friend George, haunting him to this day:
George is very involved with his church, and his activism includes participating with an outreach ministry to disadvantaged families, delivering food, joy, stories and Christmas presents. Most of the households in need are those in predominantly black and minority neighborhoods.
One such visit a few years ago was to a project apartment: a single mom with five kids under the age of 10. By appearances confirmed by small-talk conversation and other clues, most of the children were sired by separate men who didn’t bother to stay around and actually be a father.
Without a judgemental attidude, George carried on small-talk conversations with every member of the family as he put the perishable foods in the fridge and Santa-certified presents under the tree.
Afterword, having their mom’s permission, he asked the kids to sit down on the floor with him while he told them about the VERY FIRST CHRISTMAS.
The children learned about a baby Jesus born in a manger, angels, and the story of a mother treasuring those things in her heart.
After the story time was finished and he was about to leave, he said, “I need some kid-hugs. Will anybody hug an ugly old white man?”
The kids were shy at first, about that whole hugging idea, and part of it might have been because of the difference in race – which is why George always presented a disarming attitude of joyful welcome in homes where that awkward barrier could be an issue.
It took just a moment for the oldest to come closer, and he gently hugged her. After a fist-bump and some other banter, all five kids were just hugging on old George anyway, and they just wouldn’t stop!
George noticed the mother crying to herself, off to the side as she looked on. After the revelry of just being God’s children playfully enjoying the celebration of God’s day George went over to her to encourage her too.
“Maam, it’s Christmas, a time for happiness,” he said. “Jesus came to show us how to live, and he died for our sins so we can be happy now and forever!” he added with a smile.
Her reply was in the moment a shock to George, and to this day it remains the most haunting and unforgetable thing to him about that visit.
“I know the story,” she said. “I’m crying because it just occurred to me that my kids have never seen a man, any man – ever – be nice and loving and playfull to my children, ever before.”
After he departed, George had to admit to himself that he was stunned and wondering about her response. To this day, we might join him in that wondering. WHAT HAVE those kids seen?
What have they not seen?
There are many commentaries about society, trends, politics, race and cultures and stuff like that. But what about children caught in the middle of stuff like that? What about that neighborhood? Its minorities and its urban and many suburban and rural white families also, by the way?
(The impacts of sin, brokenness, lies and moral fraud are everywhere, and we already know that all have sinned and are fallen short of the glory of God.)
What about so many of the rest of our children [our people] who are growing up black in America? Or any other race? Or any other kind? Or any other, fill in the blank? Who do not have Biblical standards to live by . . .
We can care one day a year, we can reach across barriers during this Christmas season, but what more can we do?
And while it is most troubling, this very inconvenient question must also be asked: what is society doing wrong? Why are families, why are children, falling victim in such large numbers?
Are there revolutions against sexual morality and proper ethics taking place? Do these revolutions claim victims?
In the meantime as we ask new questions and seek inconvenient answers, let’s be thankful for all our volunteers and giving helpers with big hearts who enter the homes of strangers and create unforgetable, sacred moments.
They are the Santas of our day.
Thank you, George.