Hancock County Update 34
What Christmas Is All About
By Mark Proulx – Special to GCN
I called up a friend of mine on Christmas Day to wish them all a Merry Christmas. See, my friend lives in South Africa and I know how much strife she and her kids have gone through all year. Life is tough over there and the little they have comes at great cost. When someone picked up, I was greeted on the phone by my friend’s daughter, Crystal. Everyone was asleep already at 9:30pm and I had to ask why.
“Everybody’s asleep,” Crystal said with some sadness. “We didn’t have a very good Christmas…we didn’t get even one present.”
I could tell from talking to her that they we all pretty depressed and despondent over not having any money to buy even one present for the kids. Crystal is twelve years old and she is very sensitive. She went on to say that her mommy has been going to bed early every night for weeks because there’s no money coming in.
Tears welled up in my eyes hearing her talk. And really…all she wanted to do was talk. So I listened.
“We didn’t get any money in in time, so we couldn’t have a Christmas,” she said
“Crystal,” I barely got out. “Why do you think Christmas was so bad?”
“Cause we didn’t get anything…”
“What do you mean?” I asked. “You got lots of gifts, honey.”
“What gifts?” Crystal replied.
“Crystal…don’t you remember having to walk about five kilometers to school every day and having to get up extra early just to get to school? Remember at the beginning of the year, your mommy finally got enough money together to move out of that bad apartment you were in and moved to a nicer one real close to school?”
“You also got your own bedroom.”
“And isn’t your mommy working with nicer people now running her own little business?”
“And the neighborhood you live in. Didn’t you tell me it’s a better place and you have more friends?”
“Uh-huh. Yeah, we have lots more friends.”
“So, honey…your gifts didn’t come on Christmas Day. Your gifts came all year. You need to think about that. Remember how bad were things last year for you, your mommy and your little brother who had to go to the hospital because of his foot?
“You see, Crystal, Santa brought you good things all year long. He actually took a break on Christmas Day and brought toys to other little boys and girls who got nothing all year long.”
That seemed to cheer her up a lot. I could tell, so I told her to tell her mommy tomorrow when she wakes up all the things I just said. She said “ok” and I wished her a Merry Christmas again. This time, she responded with “Merry Christmas. Thank you for calling.”
When I hung up, I was glad and sad at the same time. Crystal really was a lot better off than she was a year ago, and she just needed someone to put it into perspective for her. So on the one hand, I was really glad for her.
Then my thoughts drifted over to my friends and family in Mississippi after Katrina. So many people in temporary housing, tents, FEMA trailers so lucky and glad to be alive. They have nothing. Absolutely nothing. Santa, I’m sure, wanted desperately to drop off presents to all the good little boys and girls there…and parents…and doctors…and teachers…and county workers…and congressmen and women…and mayors…and business owners…
But Christmas didn’t come the the Gulf Coast……or did it?
Those who survived, who are around to tell the story, have an invaluable experience to share with the rest of the country, as well as the rest of the world. We are blessed with the courage and fortitude that comes from our Southern heritage in sticking with it and wanting to rebuild. We have people working night and day making sure our coast is safe from those who would take advantage of this situation. We also have friends in our broken neighborhoods who come out and share a cup of coffee with us for no other reason than just to see our faces and know we are alright.
We have stories to tell our children, and grandkids, and great grandkids, and so on. We will have a history that no one else will have. We will have put down the petty arguments between us and reached out to help others in a way no one has ever done before. So far as I can tell, we have new friends from all over the country who were moved to help, to give, to offer themselves, if nothing else to do what they thought was right.
I try to imagine what would the Gulf Coast have been like if we were not blessed – richly blessed – with the family of man that we have here in our United States…and I cannot.
As tough as it is, as many hurdles as Nature herself has thrown at us, as widespread and as awesome as this damage is…there is still goodness in people. And as tears well up in my eyes as I write this, I realize one cannot gift-wrap a feeling. The best presents never come with a bow.
Merry Christmas, Crystal.
CITY OF BAY ST LOUIS
HANCOCK COUNTY DISASTER RELIEF FUND
HMC FOUNDATION HURRICANE RELIEF FUND
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