Live the spirit of Christmas all year

Isaiah the Prophet tells us that in “a land of gloom, a light shall shine.” Allow me to tell two stories of light scattering the darkness.

In 1982 Audrey Dorr died. Her daughter-in-law was standing next to her casket when a black gentleman approached and said: “That woman saved my life!”

Peggy asked him what he meant, and he told the following story. He had come to Maryland from Mississippi back in the 1950s. He had his wife and children with him in his car, when he got a flat tire. He pulled into a gas station. He explained to Mr. Dorr, the owner, that he had just arrived from Mississippi, had a flat tire and could not afford to pay for one. Mr. Dorr assured him that was no problem, and that he would give him a tire. Meanwhile, Mrs. Dorr saw the mother and children in the car, and she went to the car with bags of chips, crackers and cokes.

She asked the man what he could do, and he said he could cook. Audrey called Crownsville State Hospital and found out that they needed a cook. She told him that he would also have an apartment to live in at the hospital. When he shook her hand to thank her for her kindness, she pressed a $50 bill into his hand.

Thirty years later, the man now standing at Audrey’s casket concluded: “Oh yes, I paid her back for the money she gave me, and I also paid for the tire. But there was no way I could ever pay her back for what she did for me. I pulled into their station with a flat tire. I got a new tire, food for my family, a job that I still have, a place to live and $50. She didn’t know me at all. She was a white woman, and I was a black man. This took place in the 1950s before integration. I will never forget her kindness.”

Isn’t that a story worthy of Christmas? I think of Joseph and a pregnant Mary, looking for a place to stay in a strange city. Someone gave them lodging. Hopefully they also received some other assistance.

It’s a wonderful story to remember. But it’s even more wonderful to realize that when we help strangers, we also help another Holy Family.

The second story is a present-day story. I’ve told the story before of little Jesse. He was born with spina bifida and various other physical handicaps. When his mother was pregnant with him, she was advised by various doctors to have an abortion. Against medical advice she had the baby. There have been numerous medical procedures subsequent to his birth. For example, every six months Jesse needs another operation on his spine. As I’ve said so often before, the parents of handicapped children are the silent heroes of the pro-life movement. They put their lives where their faith is!

Jesse is now 5 years old. In his wheelchair, he is in a preschool class. On the first day of class, another little 5-year-old waved to Jesse. Then he became Jesse’s friend. He takes care of all of Jesse’s needs at school. When another little girl tried to get Jesse out of his wheelchair so that she could ride, he explained to her: “No. These wheels are Jesse’s legs.”

Recently that little boy’s mother called Jesse’s mother and asked if she could bring Jesse to their home so the boys could play together.

Does God not still send angels? Does a little child still lead us?

A wonderful story, isn’t it? Children are not always so kind. Handicaps are not always respected. People who look “different” are often treated differently. But this little boy has eyes to see. He just sees another neat kid. I have a hunch that they may be friends for life!

Christmas comes but once a year. The opportunity to live Christmas comes every day of the year. Christmas tells us that a “little child shall lead them.” A little child still leads us. Christmas tells us that Mary and Joseph needed a place to stay. And for those who look at others with eyes of faith, they are being given a place to stay even today.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.