Merry Christmas, Madeline

I want to clear up a little item here that bugs me on occasion. I do not offer up some of my observations and stories to make me look good. I’m actually a pretty ugly person on the whole and understand that Romans 3:23 has me pegged perfectly.

My goal in telling these stories is to motivate you to jump out there and live a more Christ-like life. I’m trying. Doesn’t always work. Worth the effort. I just wanted you to know it wasn’t horn-blowing but encouragement from the sidelines where all of us sinners wait to go on the field.

So, with that in mind, here’s today’s missive –

I don’t get to church much on Sundays in December. Out and about as Santa. Last Sunday I was at the Vikings game, purple suit and all, for the pre-game party. Very nice affair, took lots of great pictures with lots of nice people. Had a blast.

And, as a result, I choose to go to church on a weekday morning and yesterday was the day. I pulled into the parking lot at the Cathedral of Saint Paul with about three minutes to spare. I felt a tug at my heart to grab the box of Christmas cards from the back seat of my vehicle and put them in my pocket. They’re kind of silly cards a guy made up some years ago with my face on them saying HO HO HOPE. They were a takeoff on the Obama posters.

Each card had a gift certificate in it for a local restaurant. I’d handed a bunch of them out as gifts to my cronies at Mickey’s Diner.  So, armed with cards I headed in for mass.

And there she was.  Her name isn’t really Madeline, but it works to allow her privacy.  NO matter when I go to mass, no matter what time I get there or leave she’s there every time and she’s there before me.  And she leaves after I do.

She’s always intensely praying and reading her Bible when I see her.  I admire her concentration.  My mind races like a demented squirrel on methamphetamine and I focus as well as the average five year old most days.  But she clearly is in the moment.

I quietly walked up and set the card in the pew in front of her where she’d set her purse.  I whispered, “I see you here every time I come and I just wanted to say Merry Christmas.”  I turned and walked to my pew in the back.  Always did like the cheap seats.

I sat down down and started to collect my thoughts.  I watched Madeline pick up the card and open it.  I really hoped I hadn’t offended her somehow or upset her by interupting her prayer time before the service began.  She got up from her pew and walked back to where I was sitting.  She leaned over and showed me a smile that was truly beautiful and radiant. And, then she spoke:

“I don’t talk much except to pray, but I wanted to thank you.  This is the first Christmas present I’ve gotten in fifteen or twenty years.  Thank you and Merry Christmas.  This was very nice.”

I practically exploded in Joy.  This was my Christmas present right here.  I get a lot of them every year.  Kids smiles, laughter, trinkets, and now Madeline’s smile.  I reached out and took her hand.  I said, “I just wanted to let you know that we don’t go alone through this life and I wanted to share some of that love of Jesus with you today.  My name is Joe, what’s yours?”

“Madeline.  I have to get back, mass is about to start.  But thank you again it was very nice.”

Twenty minutes later I got my second gift of the day.  From 15 rows away she turned, waved and smiled again when we offered each other the sign of peace.  I’d never seen her turn before.

The message is simple, and I want to be clear:  Loneliness is a crushing disease that you have the power to eliminate. It doesn’t have to be Christmas time for you to be nice to your fellow man.  Put a card in your purse or pocket every now and again and stuff a gift certificate in it for Wendy’s or McDonalds, or wherever you like to grab a cup of coffee.  Look for that soul who’s in pain, or alone, or just off by themselves every time you see them.  And then reach out with the love our Savior used to light this world.  It’s about $7.00 worth of card and a gift certificate to make someone’s day (and perhaps their life) completely different.

Mine sure was after I got Madeline’s smile.  I went home and ordered 60 more cards.  I’m doing it once a week. And if I run out of cards sooner than that, I figure the blessings will more than make up the cost of the next box.

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