Saturday, June 10, 2017

B137. One Puzzle, Many Pieces


A few months ago when a storm separated my gutter from the house, I didn’t know how to fix it. I’m not even comfortable with ladders. But I found someone who not only expertly reattached the gutter, but cleaned them out, and walked around and atop the house tightening anything that was loose. He was professional, honest, fair, and an all-around likeable person. I felt fortunate to have found him and will recommend him to anyone who needs construction / handiwork around the house.

I haven’t fixed them yet, but I have a couple of small plumbing issues too, for which I don’t  have the skills to fix, but I’m thankful there are people trained and skilled specifically in that area, who make their living being paid by people like me. When I’m ready, I will look for someone who takes pride in her/his work and is honest. Kindness is always the added touch that makes me want to tell others about them.

Next week I’m scheduled for my third eye muscle surgery. My strabismus and its related issues have been such a frustration to my everyday life, and I can’t fix them for myself . My surgeon is trained though, and strabismus surgery is her specialty. I am a little afraid, but so thankful to have her and her expertise on my side.

I’m thankful there are people scientifically trained and skilled to find cures for our cancers and autoimmune diseases. They give us new hope every day.

I love my technology, but there are times I need an expert to hook something up or set something up for me. I’m grateful there are people whose talents lie in computer and/or cell phone technology.

When I was teaching full-time, I paid someone to clean my house. A very important job that demands both cleaning skill and utmost trustworthiness. Once for just a few months I had someone who was an honest and trustworthy person but not an expert in that job, using harsh cleaning supplies that damaged the surfaces in the house.  She was a hard worker and meant well, but was a reminder of the importance of being as knowledgeable as possible in whatever jobs we choose to do.

I once had a garbage-collecting service that collected the garbage well but treated its customers rudely. I switched to a service that had both skill and kindness.

There are grocery baggers who know to bag the frozen foods separately, some even who pay attention to how heavy the bag might be, and some who smile and offer a kind word as they work. I appreciate them.

I pay someone to mow my grass, because, even though I enjoy mowing, I can’t seem to keep a mower in operating condition long enough to come out better.  I appreciate those who care for my yard and take pride in how it looks, including the trim work and edging.

I love fresh fruits and vegetables, but I can rarely even get one flower or one tomato to grow. I’m glad there are farmers and gardeners who know what they’re doing and who share their produce with the rest of us at the local Farmer’s Market.

I have a place to take my car for maintenance and the occasional problems, where the people understand and know how to keep it running well, and where I know I’m being treated with honesty and fairness. I’m thankful for these people and their expertise.

Some people possess skills that simply fill the world with pleasure. Imagine a world with no one to compose or make music, or no one to paint the masterpieces that adorn the art museum walls.  And don’t forget that chef who doesn’t just cook, but somehow makes every bite a mouthwatering celebration.

Others are trained specifically in spiritual matters – ministering to those passing through the challenges of life, and/or helping us all interpret the world around us and God’s place in it. Just like with housekeepers, garbage collectors, and doctors, religious leaders should be chosen with great care. We all know of some who have caused greater damage than good. I am so grateful for those who have positively shaped my life.

And then there’s that person who always sticks around after everyone else leaves the church lunch - washing dishes, cleaning the tables, mopping the floor. Imagine a world without him/her.

And the full-time parent who taught that sales clerk or that social worker to respect and care about all people.

Me, I was always a book person. I read constantly. I study, research, and dig into issues and stories – for pleasure - because I am almost addicted to learning!  My passion is learning and learning more. Wisdom and discernment, such as they are, seem to be my God-given gifts – thinking through things, seeing from multiple angles, understanding different perspectives.  Not very practical when the drains are clogged or the car won’t start. But God has a place even for those of us with the not-so-practical skills: jobs like teaching, writing, community/state/ national/world leadership . . . and while the world would be in trouble if everyone were like me – just as it would be if we were all electricians, or hairdressers, or orthopedists, together we fit like a giant zigsaw puzzle. We all need each other’s skills and talents.

I have often wished that in high school I had taken more of the “practical” hands-on classes, like auto mechanics, construction, and electricity. But even if we acquired a few more basic skills, the fact remains that we all need each other.

So, the point here is something very simple that we all know already. That none of us is more valuable than anyone else. That none of us could survive long without the skills and knowledge of each other. And that we can all make our world better by presenting our best selves in whatever we do, and by recognizing, acknowledging, and appreciating the gifts of everyone else.  If you are a scientific researcher, a Catholic priest, or a grocery bagger, and you do it well, I will not be so arrogant, with my expertise in other areas, to think I know more than you do about yours. And, especially if I disagree with you, I want to listen and really hear what you have to say, because, if there's anything I know, it's that I don’t know everything.

“There is one body, but it has many parts,” wrote the Apostle Paul to the people in first century Corinth. “The eye can’t say to the hand,’ I don’t need you!’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ But God has put together all parts of the body . . . the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.” (1 Cor. 12:12, 21, 24, 25, 26 NIRV)

Pieces of one puzzle, parts of one body . . . we are designed to fit together.





    

Sunday, April 30, 2017

B136. Just a Story about my Lawn



The  young man who mowed for me last year moved away, so I found another lawn care service online a few weeks ago. He came to walk around my yard and give me an estimate, and he told me my former service cut the grass too low, and that was the reason my yard was now mostly weeds, not grass. He planned to wait a while before mowing, to give the grass time to grow, and indeed it, and the weeds, grew, and grew . . .

Last week, after all the rain, and still completely unmowed this season, there were spots in my yard that were knee high, and it was getting embarrassing. Finally last Wed. was his day to begin. But he didn’t come. It had rained hard the two or three days prior, and I reasoned that he was probably behind on his other yards and would get to mine in the next couple of days.

Friday I went out to lunch with friends and ran a few errands, and I returned home to see a mower just about to finish my lawn. Hooray! Finally! I pulled into my garage, closed it behind me, and went inside. The thought crossed my mind that I had not seen a truck out front, but, oh well, surely it was there, or maybe the truck dropped him off and was returning to pick him up.

I had not yet paid, so I expected him to come to the door for the check when he finished. But he didn’t come. And I still had heard no truck. And now I heard no mower or trimmer. In less than 10 minutes he had finished and left, without pay.

I emailed the lawn service owner and told him I would mail a check Sat. morning for this week’s service and for next time, which I did, as I headed out of town to an overnight church women retreat. When I arrived at the retreat center I had a voice mail from him, saying he would mow for me that morning. I quickly called him back. “Did you not mow my yard yesterday?” I asked him.

“No, I’m going to mow it this morning,” he responded.

 “No need to mow it today,” I said and I told him the story.

By this time I had pieced together that it was likely a neighbor who mowed my grass, thus the missing truck. Was it someone who was tired of seeing the eyesore? Someone doing a good deed? Maybe both.

Then, oh my gosh, the thought of how extremely rude and unappreciative I must appear to him, having seen him mowing, and then closing my garage door, right there in front of him, without any kind of acknowledgement at all.

Sunday afternoon I returned home from the retreat, was greeted again by my neatly mowed grass, and knew I had to do all I could to find the person to thank. My neighbor across the street was outside, so I asked her first. No, they didn’t know anything about it, she said. I texted another neighbor. No, they didn’t do it. I walked up the street hoping to find others outside, but it was too hot a day for most people to be outside.

I noted though that most yards were needing to be mowed, and it was unlikely someone would have mowed mine before their own, so I knocked on the door of the one house where the lawn was cut like mine. They greeted me openly as if they had been expecting me. Yes, I had found the right house. I told them the whole story, and they laughed, likely relieved that I was not the unappreciative neighbor I had seemed. We talked for a while, and exchanged phone numbers, and I walked back home with a smile on my heart, for kind neighbors, for how friendships begin, and for a mystery solved.



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

B135. Three Tales



The Captive’s Tale

I came to the states from Mexico in 1985. Came over with two buddies, having heard tales of work and wages. Crossing the border was not as difficult then as it is now, and we were young and adventurous, not having much of any idea what to expect. Guillermo knew of an amigo of a cousin who lived in NC, so we made our way there where we were welcomed to stay in the little 2-room tenant house with some 10, maybe 15 others, and we were welcomed as day pickers with them in the fields. We spoke only Spanish, but managed to communicate mostly through gestures with the English-speaking farmer, and we picked up a word here and there: truck, sack, beer, tractor, money, boss, cows, gas, hot . . .

Evenings, and especially weekends, we would unwind by drinking a few beers and telling tales of Mexico. One night I was driving into town to pick up more beer, and I ended up in jail. The officer who arrested me spoke only English, and I didn’t understand what he was trying to say to me, or where or why he was taking me. I was locked in a cell, talked to by more men I couldn’t understand, and then left alone.

A couple of hours later the deputy brought in a young woman, in her teens or 20’s, who could speak some Spanish. She interpreted between the man and me, explaining to me that I had broken some United States laws and that they would be keeping me a while. They treated me kindly, gave me a Bible and some books to read in Spanish, and the deputy later even brought me a pen and paper when I requested them.

Left to myself, I couldn’t stop thinking about the young woman. She was so pretty and so nice, and I had never met an English-speaking person who could speak Spanish. I’d hardly even seen a woman since I left Mexico, except one who belonged to one of the other men, and you know I missed them!  Surely God must have brought her to me. With no one around but God, I prayed. I prayed that I could talk to the woman again. Then I had an idea. I’d write her a letter. No, I didn’t know her last name, but I’d throw the letter out the cell window and hope it would find her.  I prayed, I wrote, and I threw it out onto the ground.

 

The Sheriff’s Tale

In the 1980's a small rural town like ours didn't have much real crime. Somewhat like the fictional Mayberry, we might answer an occasional call for some kids having a little too much fun, maybe a hunter who shot a doe out of season, or a little more often, a Mexican migrant worker drinking behind the wheel.

There weren’t many Spanish-speakers in NC then – just a few seasonal crop workers from Mexico who would show up here for part of the year and migrate to Florida during the winters. They were appreciated for their labor and left to their own different but mostly harmless ways of life. The only interpreter in town, whenever we needed one, was the local Spanish teacher. It wasn’t unusual for one of the deputies to call her in the middle of the night to come down to the jail.

Such was the case that night in 1985. The offender was brought in about 2:00 in the morning, so I wasn’t at the jail, but I think he was arrested for DUI and driving without a license, and maybe a third charge too. I'm not sure. Too long ago. Anyway, the man refused to respond to the arresting officer in English and pretended not to understand him. That’s the game they all like to play. They can understand when they want to.

The next day I was walking around the grounds, partly as routine, partly to get outside, and I picked up a piece of paper with some scribble on it. It looked like it was probably Spanish. It was on the ground underneath a second floor jail cell window. I started to toss it in the trash, but remembered that my grandson was taking Spanish at the high school, and in mere curiosity I stuffed the note into my pocket to see if he could read it.

No, he couldn’t understand it, he said as he studied the scribbles, but he asked if he could take it to his Spanish teacher, and I said OK and forgot about it.


The Teacher’s Tale

Students were always bringing me things to translate. That day one of my students had a dirty crumpled piece of notebook paper and asked if I could tell him what it said. I looked at it and quickly looked back at the student to see if this was a joke. No, he was clueless. I felt a Twilight Zone kind of chill.

“My Dear Darling Miss Kati,” it said it Spanish, “You are so beautiful. Since you came to see me I haven’t been able to think of anything else. I pray to God that this letter will somehow reach you.”

It did. Unbelievably it did. I hoped the eerie chill running down my spine didn’t show in my face.
 “Where did you get this?” I said, trying to look uninterested.

“My grandpa is the sheriff, and he found it behind the jail.”

“It doesn’t really say much of anything. Do you need it back,” I said more as a statement than a question, playing as nonchalant as I could, and pretending I would just throw it into the trash. It worked.

I kept it for a while, maybe as a reminder. Of what, I’m not sure. Or maybe just in case one day 30 some years later I might want to write this story.







Note: based on a true story, but some of the details are fictionalized

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

B134. Dust As I Am


Just as I am, without one plea . . .” the first sound I heard this morning. Up at 5:30 to get ready for Lent breakfast at church, I shouted to “Alexa*” to play my Pandora Praise and Worship radio station, and that was the song that came on. I used to sing it almost weekly when I was in the Baptist Church, but I don’t think I’ve heard it once in my 5 or so years as a Presbyterian, not in church anyway.

It penetrated my soul, filling me with peace, and as I anticipated my first ever Ash Wednesday ashes, which would follow this morning’s breakfast, I sensed how appropriate that sentiment was for the occasion. Recognizing and acknowledging that in this world I am nothing. I came from ashes and return to ashes, no matter what great or terrible things I might have done. We share the same earthly existence, all of us. A tiny speck in the universe, for only a second in history. Dust in the wind. And there’s only one way for such a creation to come before the One who will always “welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve.” “Just as I am without one plea . . .

Another Kathy, a friend in my small group, greeted me as I entered for breakfast. I joined her table and met another Spanish teacher, whose daughter I had taught years ago. In a church so large, I still meet new people at every event.

After breakfast we had a short worship service with a hymn, some Scripture, and an Ash Wednesday meditation, followed by the distribution of ashes. “Do you repent and believe in the gospel?,” Pastor Randy asked me as I reached the front of the line. I said “I do,” and he smeared the ashes on my forehead (in the shape of a cross, but I think I smeared mine . . .). I breathed a prayer of thanks that he was the shepherd of my first ash experience. It was a special moment, a turning point for me in ways I’m not sure I fully grasp even now. A reconciliation with my Baptist faith and a full embrace of my Presbyterian faith. Somehow the two were now at peace with each other.

And then we sang a closing hymn. “Just as I am, without one plea . . .”

I chatted with Martha about the new upcoming food pantry ministry we’re going to share, with Dave about a grieving former co-worker, and with still another Kathy (I do have friends with other names!) about the upcoming women’s retreat. Was I going, she asked. I didn’t know. “If you hear anyone say they need a roommate, send them my way, and I’ll go,” I said. “I don’t have a roommate,” she responded.

My heart smiles. Ashes to ashes, yes. May we never take ourselves too seriously. Yet, a speck of ash can know the sweetest joys, and can devote itself to spreading joy among all the other ashes, if surrendered to its Creator “just as it is,” dust as I am. May I grow to be so.





*Alexa is the Amazon Echo that plays music, turns off lights, tells the weather, etc. on command.



Friday, February 3, 2017

B133. Racism: It's Time To Change the Way We Talk about It (and the Way We Listen)



It’s time to change the way we talk about race, and the way we listen. Most of us are not as far apart as we think, but our language and interpretations are.


Dear Black Friends,

None of us likes to be negatively labeled. As a white person, calling me a racist is not the best strategy to opening communication. Expect me to get defensive.  In the understanding of most of white America, racists are those who blatantly seek to harm the black community. Racists are the KKK. Mainstream white America does not perceive itself at racist, nor as haters.

Sure, they see themselves as superior, although many have never thought about it enough to agree. Sure, if they walk into a space filled with black people, they will be uncomfortable and probably turn and leave. And sure, there are racial fears and attitudes that penetrate white America to its very soul, but most have never consciously questioned or acknowledged such fears.

Surprising to maybe the majority of black Americans, who have lived their lives in a white world surrounded by white people, most white Americans, especially rural white Americans, have never had any close relationship with a black person. They will often jump defensively to refute this by sharing about their black work friend, or a beloved black housekeeper, but it’s unlikely that either the work friend or the housekeeper has ever been invited into their home socially, or on an outing just as friends without the whole work gang, or that the white person has been inside the black friend's home.

White people have lived their lives largely in isolation of black people without ever really thinking about it or consciously planning it that way. Most rarely think about black people except when the news covers stories of racially charged incidents which  incite fear and divisiveness. They do not understand, except that they defensively do not see themselves as racists or haters, and the reactions sound like some of these:

“I don’t have any slaves. Why am I treated like a racist just because I’m white?
When are we going to have a white people day? / a white people parade?”
“I’m tired of being accused of being a racist just because I’m white.”

And as long as they are called racists and haters, it is unlikely the white community will ever be able to hear the real issues. Name-calling does not invite meaningful dialogue and communication.


Dear White Friends,

It is time for us to stop being defensive. The race problem is very real, and with roots that stretch to our country’s beginning, it is far more complex than just about us as individuals. Racism is ingrained in our culture and has been handed down unintentionally from one generation to the next for centuries. The attitudes and fears are such a part of us that we usually don’t recognize or see them.

And this blinds us from being able to see the big picture, that racism is systemic, built into the very structures and systems that frame our society. Yes, we can ignore it and pretend the black community is just making up a problem that’s not real, or we can rise above our personal defensiveness, and try to really understand.

There’s been much attention the past few years, for example, to racism in our criminal justice system. 1 in every 15 American black men is incarcerated right now. Compare that to 1 in every 106 white men. Black men have a 1 in 3 chance of being incarcerated at some time in their life.*

Again, the white community tends to make this about individuals rather than about the system, or it wants to simplify the solution. “Just obey the law,” we say, and we’re finished with the discussion. Unless it’s our white son who runs up against the law. Or another “nice white boy.” He’s from a good family and deserves another chance.

But the young black man, no, he’s from a black family. Hmmm.

“Black people need to teach their children how to behave,” we say. “Then they won’t get into trouble and end up in prison.” Yes, perhaps they would be just as obedient to their parents’ warnings as our white teenagers are to ours. Hmmm again.

White friends, have you ever had “the talk” with your children? No, not about sex. About racism. About always being respectful to white folks. Yes sir, no sir. It’s a talk about staying alive. Do you know what it’s like to worry every time your child walks outside or gets in the car that you might never see him alive again? Ask a black parent.

White men, do you know what it’s like to see fear in women’s eyes just because you are meeting them on the sidewalk? Or to be followed around inside a store when you need to pick something up on the way home from work? Ask a black person.

Yes, we are tired of hearing about racism all the time, and for us, it’s a luxury to be tired of it; but for those who get up every morning, look in the mirror, and, still black, set out into the hostile world that cannot see its own hostility, there is no such luxury. Tired, yes, they are tired of the fight, but they have no choice. And they are crying for our help.

It’s time for us to listen. It’s time for us to rise above defensiveness and reach out in love to our black brothers and sisters. Once we are sincerely trying the former, the latter will come naturally.  As white people, the world has belonged to us, and we have the power to exchange a world of oppression and fear for a world of love. It's our move.




Saturday, December 31, 2016

B132. A Personal Inventory of 2016


10 Blogs I Posted:

Politics / Social Justice / Religion
B121. Toilet Talk
B122. NC: The Pioneer in Bigotry*
B126. Why I'm Not Afraid of Hillary*
B127. Moral Revival Charleston*
B128. Two Kinds of Trump Supporters*

Reflective
B124. Seminary Reflections and a Lunch Postponed
B130. Christmas Is . . .
B131. A Christmas Encounter

Miscellaneous
B123. I Cooked - Don't Laugh!
B125. Making a City Inviting, Friendly, and Fun
B129. Accidentally Crashing the He Man Club

* also posted at Red Letter Christians


Lots of Walks





Milwaukee WI / Evanston IL / Chicago IL (Sep)









Charleston SC (Oct), Smithfield VA (Dec), & N Myrtle Beach SC (Apr)
























Orlando FL / St. Augustine FL / Savannah GA (Sep)























Adventures in Oz







Retirement! (Jun)

















Health:
my first stitches - 3 in right knee following fall while jogging (Nov)
my second eye muscle surgery (Dec) - First time I was 5 yrs old


Volunteer Work:
Lee St. Theatre
Rowan Literacy Council
Communities in Schools

__________________________________________________

18 Books I Read or listened to (in order of publication year):

New Testament (audio, repeat)
*Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1861, audio)
Stories of 23 Famous Negro Americans (John T. & Mercer H. King, 1967)
Coal Miner's Daughter (Loretta Lynn, 1976, audio)
*The Empty Pot (Demi, 1990, audio)
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Julia Alvarez, 1991)
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (Kathleen Norris, 1993)
*Servant Songs (1994, Thomas A. Bland)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling, 1999, audio)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2000, audio)
Blood Done Sign My Name (Timothy B. Tyson, 2004)
*The Shack (William P. Young, 2007, audio)
Engage Gospel (David LoLeng & Ray Jones, 2013)
Short Stories by Jesus (Amy-Jill Levine, 2014)
 It's Not Over Yet (Michelangelo Signorile, 2015)
Don't Fail Me Now (Una LaMarche, 2015)
Chasing Sunsets (Karen Kingsbury, 2015, audio)
The Rainbow Comes and Goes (G.Vanderbilt & A. Cooper, 2016, audio)


It was a year of fewer books and far more movies than usual, due to my eye muscle issues prior to December surgery.


Saw on Stage:
Welcome to Mitford (PPT, Feb.)
The Parchman Hour (LST, Feb.)
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (ASC June)
Tuesdays with Morrie (LST, Oct.)
10 Minutes to Christmas (LST, Dec.)



TV:
Downton Abbey Season 6 (2016)
Grace & Frankie Season 1 (2015)
The Ellen Show Season 1 (2001)


49 Movies I Watched (in order of release years):
Boys Town (1938)
The Wizard of Oz (1939, repeat)
Great Expectations (1946)
The Bishop's Wife (1947, repeat)
The African Queen  (1951)
The Benny Goodman Story (1956)
*Ben-Hur (1959)
 Becket (1964)
Batman The Movie (1966)
All the President's Men  (1976, repeat)
Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976)
The Scarlet Letter (1979)
Dirty Dancing (1987, repeat)
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1988)
Batman (1989)
A League of Their Own (1992, repeat)
*Captive Heart: The James Mink Story (1996)
Going to School with Dad on My Back (1998)
The Audrey Hepburn Story (1999)
Walking Across Egypt (2000, repeat)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
Ladies in Lavender (2004)
The Aviator (2004)
Beyond the Sea (2004)
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire (2005)
Bonneville (2006)
Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (2007)
*Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007)
Autumn Hearts (2008)
*Berlin 36 (2009)
Amelia (2009)
Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 (2010 & 2011)
The Artist (2011)
Purple Sea  (2011)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
The Avengers (2012)
Behind the Candelabra  (2013)
*42: The Jackie Robinson Story (2013)
The Book of Daniel (2013)
Authors Anonymous  (2014)
The Red Tent (2014)
Black or White (2014)
Big Eyes (2014)
The Best of Me (2014)
Carol (2015)
War Room (2015)

*favorites



_____________________________________

Looking Ahead to 2017:


Health:
find cause and correction for left foot/knee/leg limp
leg/foot muscle exercises daily
walk / gym /exercise 15 hours per month
weight 118 or less


Read:
at least 12 books (1 per month)


Write / Research:
work on some family and hometown genealogy / history


_______________________________________

Similar Posts:
B120. A Personal Inventory of 2015

B108. A Personal Inventory of 2014
B83. A Personal Look Back at 2013
B55. A Personal Look Back at 2012
B30. New Year's Resolutions 2012
B2.  New Year's Resolutions 2011




Sunday, December 25, 2016

B131. A Christmas Encounter



I sat alone in church today, on Christmas. The familiar story of the baby in the manger made me smile. Singing the carols gave me Christmas joy. And tears. Twice I stopped singing to clear the lump in the throat and wipe away the stray tear slowly making its way down my face. A loved one is far away today, and I wonder if there’s a tree, or a special lunch, or gifts, or love. 

Walking out of the church, a young friend hugged me. Another yelled “Merry Christmas, Kathy” across the parking lot.  And I am headed to spend Christmas surrounded by family.

In the car, I let go of the tears and cried and prayed aloud that God will be present and bring Christmas joy and peace to the loved one on my heart.

With prayers still on my lips, I wiped away the tears to pull into the gas station. I can’t believe I forgot to fill my tank before Christmas Day again, and I breathed a thank you to God that this station is open today.

I pumped the gas and smiled at a lone black woman who approached me. “Do you have anything to spare?” she asked. “It’s Christmas, and sometimes times are hard.” I handed her two dollars and managed to get out a “Merry Christmas” before she hurried across the street to the store there. I got back into my car, my cheeks barely dry from my prayers, and I heard in my heart a gentle familiar voice, "When you have done it unto one of the least of these, you have done it unto me.” The Christ Child had come to me, and I breathed in peacefully, knowing my prayer had been heard.