This is my baby's first Christmas. I am so excited for him. I don't know how he will react to Christmas lights and glass decorations, since he tends to grab and bite whatever catches his fancy (small animals, beware!). But it's wonderful to have him. My perspective of Christmas, like everything else in my life, has changed. Maybe this is cheating, because it isn't really MY good deed. The baby does it all for me….
Each year, as Christmas approaches, I try to wean myself off my bad habits. In the midst of all the commercialism, shopping, and partying, of which I am an enthusiastic participant, I decide on three things to prepare myself mentally for Christmas. First, I try to deny myself some little luxury, secondly, I pray some special prayers, and thirdly, I do one good deed on a regular basis until Christmas Day. I have never once followed through with my resolves, and a couple times Christmas has come and gone while I was still deciding what to do, and by then it was too late.
Deciding which little luxury to give up is easy, since I am a comfort-loving creature and I have so many comforts. It's surprising, however, how difficult it is to actually give them up. Last year I decided to take showers instead of baths. That lasted for two weeks. This year I gave up watching movies, which is one of my favorite comforts. I've broken this resolve at least three times. But I have a touching faith that someday I will improve.
Deciding on the good deed is also difficult. Traditionally, people prepare for Christmas by giving "alms," or gifts of money and food, to the poor. I live in a wealthy, Socialist country, where poor people are taken care of by the government-not very well, but at least they don't starve. One year I bravely set out to shovel people's walkways.
"Hey, what do you think you're doing?"
"Hi. I'm just shoveling."
"I already shoveled."
"Yeah, and didn't you see the 'No Trespassing' sign?"
"Well go have a look. It's on the fence. Scram."
Once I enlisted my sister to bring some of my mom's Christmas baking to an elderly man who lived alone in a little shack up the road. Since we lived in the country, we had to walk through a lot of deep snow, without passing any houses. He wasn't home, so we left our gift at the door. As it turns out, he was an old pedophile who had been picked up by the police. My mom had a fit when she heard about our mission of kindness.
This is my baby's first Christmas. I am so excited for him. I don't know how he will react to Christmas lights and glass decorations, since he tends to grab and bite whatever catches his fancy (small animals, beware!). But it's wonderful to have him. My perspective of Christmas, like everything else in my life, has changed.
A few days ago, my baby and I were out shopping. As usual, he attracted attention from well-meaning strangers. As usual, I smiled politely, but made it clear that I had shopping to do. I didn't want to waste time, I didn't want to listen to stories about anybody's first grandchild, and, above all, I didn't want anyone to put their grubby hands on my baby.
It was late afternoon and my baby was sleepy and felt particularly heavy. As his eyes began to droop, I took his car-seat into the store and lay him down. I left his seat on the floor while I walked around. It wasn't very crowded, but I kept an eye on him from a distance. Then I got lazy, and turned my back for a moment. When I turned around, I saw a strange lady leaning over the baby. She looked shabby and didn't smell very clean. They were talking to each other.
"Ga ga ga?" said the lady.
"Ga ga ga, " said my baby.
"What a sweet little baby," said the lady, as I picked him up. "What a smile."
Even as I was about to sweep my baby to safety, away from strange old ladies with nasty teeth, I thought, "Here is my Good Deed for Christmas. Never mind shoveling driveways or robbing the rich to give to the poor. My baby, in his innocence, is much more generous than I am."
After I started looking into people's faces, I saw a great need, a greater need than the need for money or shoveled driveways; the need for human love. Even just a smile, or a sympathetic nod, seemed to make a difference. "What the world needs now is love, sweet love," as it says in the song. There are so many lonely people, so many sad faces.
I've gone to several retirement residences, where old people sit in wheelchairs against a wall, all afternoon, and stare straight ahead. This sad place is the scene of the most beautiful transformation. Whether or not the residents have all their faculties, they know a cute baby when they see one. I might as well be a fairy god-mother bringing magic.
One particularly senile old man doesn't acknowledge me, but when I bring him the baby, his face lights up like Christmas lights and he says "Hi, Jim," (not my baby's name) "You came to see me. Thanks for coming to see an old man."
Maybe this is cheating, because it isn't really MY good deed. The baby does it all for me. But it is the most gratifying gift I could give. When we leave, they are still smiling. Sometimes they stroke my baby and hold him. Normally I'm a little uncomfortable with this. This time of year, however, I feel generous. After all, Christmas began with a Baby.