“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it comes round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely,” from Charles Dickens‘ A Christmas Carol
I have always loved this quotation, and I have always agreed with it. Like Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, it seemed to me that Christmas weaves a spell of kindness and “good will to men.” And I think Kris Kringle is right when he says in Miracle on 34th Street, “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a state of mind.”
So perhaps the season was a part of my experience Saturday…but I don’t think that was the only reason I was touched by multiple acts of kindness in the midst of a day of pain. I believe the strangers who offered me hugs and inquiries of concern, reached out because they saw that I was suffering. After several days of illness, and a whirlwind of a day of doctors and tests, we learned our treasured German Shepherd, Raen, has acute leukemia and probably only a short few months to live. I left the examining room stunned and crying. And as my husband paid our bill, I waited for Raen and struggled to pack up the bags we’d brought with us thinking she would stay.
The first stranger approached. She offered help and then asked if I was ok. When I could only shake my head, kindness and grace embraced me in the arms of this…stranger.
Then they brought us Raen. As always when people see her they reacted to her exotic beauty. Few have seen a long hair shepherd at all, fewer still one like her with a tail proudly luxurious and so long it can drag on the ground. Since we’ve had her it has been a common experience when we walk her for people to pull over their cars, or cross the street and stop us, to ask where we got her. This time the comments and questions made me cry harder. She looks so healthy, yet she is dying. Again, a woman who had approached to stroke her satin fur, clasped and strengthened me.
Finally, because I couldn’t face food, I ran out to pick something up for Doug. As I waited for them to bring it, again I was asked if I was ok. When I explained why I was not, the young man who asked shared his story of losing his dog in a flood. Two strangers crossed the chasm of the unknown to share in lifting a burden for each other.
And then there is my family. From my first call to my daughter, after her shock, she became a rock for me. Calling, looking up information, anything to help. Our son phoning. Our grandchildren, the family ‘puppies,’ have always looked forward to visits for forays to the backyard with her and to picnics on “Raen’s hill” from where she surveys her fenced in kingdom. They have called to check on Nana and Boppa and their dear ‘furry aunt’, because as Greyson noted, “Raen is our family.” Of course, through it all, my dear husband has reached through his own pain with endless love and support for me.
Amelia Earhart said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves.”
I think she’s right. Like the commercial that shows random acts of assistance passed on in different ways person to person, kindness begets kindness like love begets love. Each time we share a sorrow or reach out to someone suffering we widen the circle of grace that hopefully will one day envelop us all. If each of us can do that, we can be redeemed as Scrooge was, and “the state of mind” of Christmas can live on and be with us every day of the year.