I used to struggle with loneliness and depression around this time of year thru the beginning of the next. It would just slowly creep up on me and the next thing I knew I felt like I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders. I couldn’t fix anything in my life. I couldn’t fix anything in anyone else’s life…and the things I had been enjoying suddenly felt– gone.
The days where it was coldest and the sunniest were the hardest for me to endure because everyone around me was laughing and smiling with friends or family. I had no one.
The days of constant drizzle of rain felt like it was seeping into my soul and the tears I refused to cry or the one’s that just wouldn’t…swirled in the rain swallowing me.
At night I’d lay in my bed and listen to the rain pelt the window panes and listen to the wind rage at being denied access to my room. Some nights I’d open my window and get lost in the rain and the howling wind…falling asleep somehow comforted in the chaos of the darkness.
Then one day I noticed a homeless man sitting on the bus. He wasn’t wearing socks. I was headed home. I pulled my shoes off and took off my socks. I handed them to him and he put them on. The relief on his face as his feet got some warmth was evident. I smiled at him and told him good night as I got off the bus at my stop.
On another day, one of the ones that were the hardest for me, I noticed a mother and two children on the water front pier. The mother looked tired and stressed. The kids seemed happy enough. I stood looking out at the ocean and heard the little girl tell her mother that she was hungry. The little boy said his tummy hurted. She said, “I’m sorry. We have to wait until tonight when we go home.” The little girl said ok but the boy began to cry. I dug in my backpack and pulled out my wallet. I had $10. Would that be enough? I walked slowly over to where the woman sat comforting her little boy. The little girl was chasing a sea gull. “Excuse me, but, McDonald’s is just down the street. I only have $10 but I’d like it if you would take it and buy your littles and yourself something to eat. It’s warm in there…” I saw tears in her eyes as she reached for the money. I smiled at her and said, “Hope things get better.” I went to walk the opposite direction but took a glance back and saw the mother and her two kids heading to get some food.
On Christmas Eve that year I did something I had never done before. I went out and bought a hundred blueberry candy canes and a green Christmas Stocking the day before. On Christmas Eve Day, I woke up excited. I got dressed in several layers and put a couple of my extra hats and knit gloves in my backpack. I ate some toast and drank my coffee, a smile teasing the corners of my face. I went out and grabbed a bus heading to the waterfront pier again….it could be a cold and lonely place…I thought maybe someone needed a blueberry candy cane. I handed out all of my candy canes except for one. I even gave away the extra hats and gloves. I got on the bus to head home, it was already dark. I sat down in the back of the bus and waited for the bus to near my stop. Just before my stop arrived I noticed the homeless man that I’d given my socks to that one night. He was staring out the window, a sadness etching his face, his eyes glistening in the passing lights. I got up and held the candy cane out to him and said, “Merry Christmas” . He looked up at me, seemingly shocked that I was standing in front of him. “Is this for me?” I smiled and nodded. He slowly reached out and took the candy cane. “Thank you. It’s the finest candy cane I’ve ever seen!” He carefully put in in his ratty old backpack. “Merry Christmas to you too! I used to have a girl like you… she’s been gone 20 years now. But I bet if she’d had time to grow up, she’d have been like you.” I reached out and took the hand he had extended towards me and then I gave him a hug. He pulled the cord at my bus stop. He remembered from the other time. “See you again young lady. That smile looks good in your eyes.”
As I walked home that night, the Christmas lights had never been so beautiful and bright.
I’d had so much pain in my life, in my heart it consumed me, held me captive…the holidays had always left me feeling so desolate, so isolated…until that year when I began to learn to look outward and see the world around me. Sure, there’s people laughing and having fun, but if you take another look you can also see the one’s navigating the world much like yourself, you see pain and heartache, grief and tears. The beauty of seeing the world around you with all its good and sadness is that it allows you to rekindle the connection to a part of life that you’d lost. It gives you the strength to push through the consuming darkness engulfing you and allows a little sunshine and laughter in your soul. It makes you want to help others, to bring a smile when you can and to offer solace where it’s needed.
When God began to heal the brokenness in my heart and put the pieces of me that had been shattered from circumstances that had left me feeling powerless and gutted… it was when I was ready to let God in my life, in my heart. I had to be willing to reach out and take the candy cane that God held out to me.
Looking back to that time I feel a mixture of old sadness lingering around the edges. But then I remember and look about me. God has given me so many blessings…My family He brought into my life eleven years ago. And my two cats of course.
Holidays now mean family. One thing that I love about my family is that if we can’t all be together on the exact date of the holiday, then we plan a time when we can be. This is when Thanksgiving is. This is when Christmas is… when we are all together, sharing smiles and random bits of our lives with each other. A time of fun and games where we play board games together. A time where we simply enjoy our family time.
To many, family is flesh and blood connected through DNA. But for me, though my family and I share no DNA, we still have kinship because of the love that God has put in our hearts for each other. Family are the one’s who stand beside you as you navigate life. They laugh with you, pray with you and when you grieve, they grieve with you.
I haven’t handed out candy canes for years now but maybe this year I will–maybe even you will. Or maybe someone will give you a blueberry candy cane.