This Christmas has earned a special place in family annals. At Stately Snow Manor, we have erected our Christmas tree, laid out decorations, placed the manger near the fireplace and strung lights on the bushes outside the door. We have shopped for each other. We have attended parties and mini-galas organized by schools, dance studios, music teachers, offices and even the White House. We have enjoyed fetes organized by the Cub Scouts and Brownies, too.
Yet these are not the things we will remember most. We will carry with us this story instead:
My wife, who cannot bear the thought of an animal’s suffering or other people’s having to deal with life’s hardships alone, has organized a mission to fix up a friend’s home. She has assembled a squadron of volunteers who on their own have laid new floors, painted rooms, replaced beaten furniture with nicer stuff, and sewn slipcovers and drapes. They have put in new sinks and countertops; replaced a range-hood, arranged to have electrical system rewired, installed smoke detectors, overseen an overhaul of the front yard — and they have done all of this unbidden, out of pocket, for sheer love of a friend. The other night, my wife and younger daughter returned home, happy and spattered with oil-based paint, having worked together to finish up the last room.
If you want a Christmas story, start here, with deeds of kindness. Recall that the holiday celebrates one gift above all others — the gift of love.
Love demands no recompense, and expects none. It summons poetry and moves mountains. It overhauls homes as well. My wife and her friends — one of whom spent an entire day laying down floors while battling sickness and a raging fever — hurled themselves into the proceedings, and fidgeted at night anticipating what might happen the next day — they were eager to see what new they could do for the home.
That’s another of love’s traits: It transforms possibility into action. My wife and her friends not only have spruced up a house and thrilled a friend, they have drawn their families into the deed as well; made us co-conspirators in acts of contagious compassion. Thanks to them, we’re proud. Thanks to them, we either have remembered or learned that love provides more in joy than it demands in toil.
Can you think of a better gift?
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