by Rebecca D. Higgins
Sometimes when your own heart hurts, volunteering to help others brings with it a sense of peace and healing. Yesterday afternoon after one of the shopping sessions at Lexington, Kentucky’s Faith and Community Christmas Store, one of the volunteer personal shoppers came back with her empty cart to the starting point. She was in tears. When asked about it, she shared that the woman she had just helped find gifts for her children was celebrating being clean and sober. For the first time in three years she was going to be spending Christmas with her children. Stories like that are what make ministries like the Christmas Store worthwhile.
At the end of the shift, I was thanking volunteers for coming and giving their time and love. As this woman started to leave, I commented on the story she had shared earlier and thanked her for being a blessing to that mother. We talked about the busload of middle school kids who had helped during that shift, and she remarked on how important it was that they learn to share with others. “I took my son a number of years ago to help at something like this,” she told me. “When we got home, he wanted to clean out his closet and toys and donate them.”
“That’s wonderful!” I exclaimed. “Allowing children to be a part of these kinds of ministries helps them develop a greater appreciation for what they have and a generous heart to share with those in need. You’re a good mom for teaching your son that.”
Suddenly, her voice broke and tears gathered in her eyes. “My son passed away a few years ago.”
“I am so sorry!” I exclaimed as I instinctively wrapped her in a hug. We talked for a few more moments before she went on her way, and I oriented the new set of volunteer personal shoppers for the next shift.
Last night I replayed that conversation when I got home. I found myself praying for two mothers. One mother was grieving the loss of her son and not being able to spend any more Christmases with him. Even though there was an empty place in her heart, she didn’t hesitate to share the joy of another mother who, after the messiness of her life, was finally being reunited with her children for Christmas. Somehow I believe that sharing that other mother’s joy was healing and a good way to remember and honor her own son’s generous spirit.
No matter what problems or pain we may be experiencing this Christmas season, may we find healing and joy in allowing ourselves to be instruments of Christ’s peace for others who are hurting.