12/25/2009

O Come All Ye Faithful


Months ago, I was working with a team of women for the Relay for Life event in Williamson County. The day of the event, I happened to be at local mall in that area and was pretty excited about the upcoming festivities. Hence, I was telling the store clerks in New York & Company about it and inviting them to attend.

A young man behind the counter told me he was scheduled to work that weekend and could not attend. While he was saying this, he was unhooking the clasp of the beautiful chain he had around his neck, sterling silver with a sparkle when the lights hit it directly. This was not custom jewelry. Without a word, he handed it to me. I looked down at the chain and back at the young man’s face and asked why he was giving it to me. He simply said “My grandfather was a wonderful loving man who died years ago of cancer. I always wanted to do something to let him know how profoundly he touched my life. This is my opportunity. Take this chain that is so dear to me and expensive and use it to raise money to find a cure so no one else has to suffer the same fate my grandfather did.”

I was humbled by his generosity. Here was someone quite young, working in retail and offering up something near and dear to him to help others. I was so excited I quickly got on my cell phone and called our team captain to recant the story.
An hour later I arrived at our tent, home base, for the Relay with my fellow team members. They had, by then, all heard the story about the necklace.

One of our team members was not going to be able to join us though. We were saddened because her cancer had returned and we all wanted to set our eyes on her and let her know she remains steadfast in our prayers. We decided, as a group, instead of auctioning the necklace we would give it to her, with the story told to me, and hopefully give her a new leash on life. God works in mysterious ways and maybe, by passing on this necklace we could instill even more faith and hope in our dear friend’s heart.

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Fast forward to yesterday, Christmas Eve. I was doing the last minute run to the mall and happened to be in the same store and lo and behold, the same young man was there behind the counter. I told him what was done with his necklace. He asked for an update on her current situation. I told him she was still in the heat of the battle. Reluctant to give up, her determination was guiding her to continue fighting even harder, with another round of chemotherapy with an ‘experimental’ treatment she was to begin shortly.

The young man thanked me repeatedly for letting him know who his chain had gone to and her story. Then, without a word, he removed a gorgeous bracelet he was wearing and held it out to me. He asked me simply to give it to her and let her know it is a Hail Mary bracelet. He went on to tell me he is a Catholic, devout in his faith. He said the bracelet signifies to him prayers are being said by all and he wanted her to know, with this gift, he will continue praying for her.

I tried to refuse as the bracelet was gorgeous. It had images of Virgin Mary, the crucifix, stations of the cross, etc…beautifully painted on each bead. As I looked it over and scanned the back of the beads, they also have painted images on them and were completely different than the images on the front of the beads. It was , simply said, gorgeous. Full of Christian meaning with those images staring back at me. He told me he could easily get another and it would mean far more to him to know where it was going than to wear it. He said he believes in the Hail Mary prayer and has used it repeatedly through out his life. He simply said “I want to give the gift or prayer to your friend and let her know, with this bracelet, others are praying for her.”

I took down his email, at my request, because I felt I wanted to follow up with him with updates on her condition. He was humbled that I asked to stay in contact with him as his gift had no strings attached. He did not even give me his name, merely his email. He was simply a servant of God not interested in attention or praise. Yet, when I told him I would indeed take it to her this holiday season, his face lit up like I had given him the gift! He thanked me repeatedly as I repeated his words to me, thanking him! The line was beginning to back up in the front of the store, but all present within an earshot of this conversation that heard this encounter moved or said a word. I think all were taken in by this simple gesture and gift of this young man to some woman fighting to stay alive this Christmas.

I walked out of the store, once again, reminded God is alive and well. He is showing himself in the strangest of places. Just like the movie years ago George Burns starred in Oh God, the almighty really does reveal himself in the simplest of places. Here in the face of this young man working retail was a love of mankind so pure and a gift given freely with no expectation in return. How wondrous!

I thought about this young man many times yesterday and in particular when I attended a candle light service. As the lights were dimmed in our church, illumination in the church only by burning candles each member of the congregation was holding, I again reflected on this gift. I was reminded, just as the wise men brought gifts to our baby Jesus laying in a manger, this young man was bringing life to a complete stranger through me. This man’s gift represents hope, love and faith.

I hope, after reading this account, you all will remember that the true meaning of Christmas comes in no set size package, no particular form or person but solely from God. If we open our hearts, the gift is there not only at Christmas time but always.

Merry Christmas to all! Rejoice! Do you doubt the magic of the season? Look no further……
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