4 Comments 11 December 2013

Happiness is truly about intention. And, I believe, it is the same with the Magic of Christmas. You must only believe. Believe in one humanity. Believe in one lasting peace.

Christmas Lights

In the midst of our traditional Christmas preparations and merrymaking, we have also sought authentic ways to teach our children about the true meaning of this season of light. On one such night, we hoped to inspire our children through a simple giving project, encouraging them to voice their understanding of thanks and giving, shopping for toys that will go to children in need at Christmas, delivering them together at our local fire department on our beloved Stella Link Road, all to involve them in a sincere act of kindness.

At the end of a rushed and tiring week of work, school activities, and caring for sick babies when we were under the weather ourselves, we made it our priority to arrive at the firehouse before it closed that evening. In the end, we were ourselves blessed by the warmest welcome from the heroic firefighters of Fire Station 37, saying they would hang Baby #2’s card on their fridge, letting the children climb into the big fire engine, and allowing our family a special moment shared with the Honorable Mayor Annise Parker. We are grateful for this valuable lifelong memory for our children, grateful always for the service of these men and women to our city of Houston.

Fire Station Annise Parker

Although we create giving moments for our children that involve action, and these moments are always fulfilling, more often than not, lessons of giving come naturally through everyday life. We talk first and often about kindness to each other as family, of ensuring that we do things and say things that make hearts happy. It is only by inspiring a belief in kindness at home that we can expect our children to carry peace into the greater world.

On one afternoon following a Kindergarten birthday party, I went with Baby #1 to Fiesta Mart on South Main Street to purchase a few vegetables that would make their way to our dinner table that week. I have always found Fiesta Mart, one of our city’s best sources of quality produce at low cost and a vast array of international foods, to be enchantingly common. Attracting unassuming people from every income level, social background, and culture, the activity of this humble market speaks to the truth that people are equal, to the hope that people can come together as one.

Baby #1 absolutely delighted in being my only helper for the day, giddy to find everything we needed, a quite lovely experience for both of us, a feeling that we are the truest of friends, two happy souls playing together. As we stood in line to purchase our plentiful fresh foods, he dutifully and meticulously placed each item on the conveyor belt, working like it was his refined craft, a diligent service to our family. I see this in him on so many occasions, but it always makes me smile for him, that he has such integrity within.

A thin woman stood behind us holding a hand basket with a small amount of food, most likely for her alone. She began to nod her head as she watched Baby #1 fulfill his mission in earnest. She overflowed with praise and questions. How old is he? He is such a wonderful helper. My, I like that. A hard worker. I like that a lot. He is so good. He is beautiful. Just wonderful. He has two little sisters? Amazing. Darling, whatever you are doing, you just keep doing it.

I was so very touched by her words. By her presence. By her acknowledgment of my dear child as a person. Of me as his mother.

In turn, I took a brief moment to notice her. Knowing I had no way to truly see who she is and what her hardships actually are, I sensed that maybe she might be in need of at least a small amount of acknowledgment and kindness. As I finished my transaction, she was feverishly searching her purse and not finding something in the pockets. Eventually, she found a debit card.

As I received my receipt, I whispered to the woman behind the counter that I would take care of the next customer’s bill.

When the woman behind the counter scanned a small warm package of meat, three apples, three bananas, three pears, and one bottle of Gatorade, the woman stopped her to ask why there was tax. The meat carried nineteen cents in tax because it was a prepared food. She knew the price of each item to the penny.

The total was $7.78. Handing me the receipt, the woman behind the counter seemed perplexed and concerned, inquiring, “Is she with you?”

Thinking she had mistaken my son for a little girl, placing my hand on the top of Baby #1’s head, his hair still full of soft curls, I said, “Him? Yes, he’s my…”

“No, the lady. Do you know her?”

“Oh. No. I do not know her.” I was at a loss for more to say.

I am not certain that the woman with the groceries actually said thank you with her voice because I was distracted by the thanks in her eyes.

“God bless you,” I said.

Teacher Hospitality Committee

A few days later, after picking up Baby #1 from school on an early release day, I brought him with me to help place an order at the Chipotle Mexican Grill on South Main Street for a teachers’ luncheon at the Day School where his sisters attend school, a place still very dear to him. He was excited to know he could help be a part of the Teacher Hospitality Committee.

Holding a completed order form and the exact tax-exempt amount of $89.25 collected from the teachers, I went inside the restaurant with Baby #1. Immediately realizing we had arrived at the busiest hour of the day, I waited in the regular order line to ask for a manager. As we stepped to the side, we were met by a young man who had been busy coordinating staff behind the counter. Standing with both hands on his waist, he sighed briefly and smiled.

As I began to explain my need to place a special order for a school to be picked up first thing the next morning, I sensed slight hesitation from him and worried that he, for some reason, would not be able to fulfill the request.

Taking the order form and flipping it to view both sides again, he inquired, “So this is for a school?”

“Yes, and I have the tax-exempt form, order information, and money. I know you open at 11:00, so I just need to be sure I can pick up the order as early as possible.”

“No, no, okay. That is no problem. But, I am going to take care of this for you at no charge.”

Before leaving, I asked the young man his name. I had never heard his name before, but when I read about it later, I found that it is a biblical name of Hebrew origin, a variation of the name Michael. Our son’s name is also a biblical name of Hebrew origin, a variation of the name Michael. The meanings given are similar. Who. He who resembles God. Gift from God. I learned also another meaning that I had never seen when we were naming our son. Poor, humble.

Only days earlier, after the woman behind the counter had questioned me, Baby #1 asked me why I paid for the groceries of the woman behind us. I explained we can help another person by being kind, and our kindness can make another person’s heart happy. Even we need help sometimes, and we feel happy when people help us.

As we returned to the car after placing the luncheon order, I told him how the manager was giving us the teachers’ lunches, that he was being kind.

Baby #1 was quiet in response. He still wanted to get the most out of our time together at home and had a vision to make a snowflake garland. We shared the most peaceful time cutting white paper, opening each one like a present, finding a surprising and unique design each time, especially delighting in the hearts. Although imperfectly homemade, we were very proud of the piece of artwork we eventually hung along the windows.

Cutting Snowflakes

When we arrived at school to fetch our girls, Baby #1 carried a small plastic bag that held the teachers’ lunch money and returned it to the school director. In his own way, much more internally felt than spoken aloud, he shared how he is now on the Teacher Hospitality Committee and the nice man at the restaurant said he would give the food because he was being kind.


Since that afternoon, the days of Advent have begun. Our Elf on the Shelf has arrived in our home—his name is Per, pronounced like pear, a Scandinavian variation of the biblical Greek name Peter, meaning rock. We savored our Christmas tree trimming night with traditional cookies and cocoa. We celebrated Saint Nicholas Day, leaving carrots in the children’s shoes on the front porch. With our lights joyfully decorating our rooftop and greenery, we have thoroughly enjoyed nightly drives through the neighborhood to witness the good cheer of others.

One evening in the gentle rush between snack time, homework, sundown, and dinner time, we all gathered outside to make poinsettia paintings using leaves to make imprints. Baby #2 carefully observed our real Christmas flowers to know which colors and shapes to use in creating our artwork. The green paint inspired her to expand the project and paint a Christmas tree. Throughout recent weeks, she has been tracing, coloring, and cutting families of green Christmas trees, trees of all sizes, all while singing a continuous refrain, “Baby born in Bethlehem, Hallelujah.”


Last week, we were especially delighted by the sight of Baby #1 and Baby #2 performing in their school Christmas programs. As Baby #2 stood front and center stage, gently playing with her hair, a new affectation we have not yet seen, something I have always done to calm myself, she sang beautifully the songs that have filled our home every day for weeks.

Baby 2 Christmas Program

As Baby #1 filed into the front row of his assembled Kindergarten classmates, I found myself holding back unanticipated tears, my breath taken away, at once envisioning him in his first performance at the tender age of two, recognizing the same precious expression on his face, knowing that I will surely weep again and again at every upcoming performance and graduation.

Baby 1 Christmas Program

As vacation from work nears, I eagerly await Shervin’s more constant companionship at home. In the next few days, he will happily attend festive office potlucks and department casino parties, while I settle contently with holiday vignettes on The Today Show and Kelly & Michael.

As a work-from-home, stay-at-home mama, I receive blessing upon blessing for which to be thankful each day. The exhausting daily work is fully rewarded with moments of joy, opportunity for growth, and reasons for gratitude. The musings of young children even bring wisdom, an invitation for spiritual reflection.

Yet there are times when the role of serving a family at home and working in a virtual office is a bit isolating for the whole self, especially when wondering if I am doing everything well enough, and even when wishing for a moment of acknowledgment, as a person, just a person with human thoughts and feelings.

In the past few years, gradually learning of my need for merriment in my own workplace, an ever so mild holiday woe, Shervin has become my  merry home office elf. One time he filled a plastic snowflake water cup with holiday Hershey kisses like a secret Santa. Another time he made a vegetarian version of the chips and dip I was sending for his office. Yesterday he invited me to bring Baby #3 to meet for lunch at Bombay Brasserie near The Galleria, truly making our day, just being together, marking another miniature tradition of the season.

Good Cheer Here

Over lunch, as conversation always tends toward family things, we decided I should stop by Costco to buy a random list of needed items, including the snacks and drinks for the first basketball game of the new season this weekend. I did not drive my normal way down Stella Link Road until it turns into Weslayan Street. Instead, I drove down Westheimer Road to where it meets Weslayan Street. At the stop light, there was a jolly man gingerly maneuvering between the lanes and waving at people in their cars. As I approached, I saw his white sign said: “Hi, my name is Richard. Hungry and homeless. God bless you!”

Today I Will Be Jolly

I could not stop and reach for my wallet in time with the traffic and light, so I turned right into the nearest parking lot and navigated to come back around. I confess that I rarely carry much money in my wallet, despite the common cautionary advice that I always should have enough, just in case, to be safe. In fact, I was not sure I had anything at all. As I came to a stop, I first found nothing, but then saw the edge of a one dollar bill tucked into the extra pocket of my wallet.

As I opened my window to wave at Richard, he quickened his step and meandered to the minivan, saying, “Hi, darling! Thank you! Very much!” Peeking in the back seat, he almost sang, “Merry Christmas!” As we pulled away, Baby #3 gleefully exclaimed, “He said Christmas! He said Christmas, Momma!”

Merry Christmas

At Costco, I quickly found the items we needed and hurried through checkout to allow time for Baby #3’s afternoon nap. Our almost weekly Tuesday trips to Costco have become a sweet ritual. Riding at eye level to me in what I affectionately call the baby buggy, she always has three priorities at Costco—getting more granola bars, perusing the pajamas, and holding the receipt.

As we exited the store, a joyous young woman waited the extra second required for Baby #3 to hand her the receipt to inventory our cart. Instead of growing impatient or remaining unaffected altogether, she began to coo, “Oh, she is so cute. She is just so cute. And she has an important job to do.”

As I thanked her for endearingly attending to our need for this simple joy and Baby #3 thanked her for the smiley face she drew in highlighter on the back of the paper receipt, the young woman replied, “Oh, she is just so, so cute. Merry Christmas!”

Baby 3 Costco

Like the snowflakes we made this year, every person is unique and valuable. Yet we are also all the same. Everyone has a name. Everyone needs to feel love. Everyone has hardships. Everyone deserves the simplest compassion.

One cannot always give the most, but one can always give something. If one sees that one can give something in this world, it is not for oneself to judge whether or not it is good enough. It is only for oneself to decide to give what one can. And quite certainly one always receives even more in return.

One must only remain perpetually in awe of the commonality among people, the goodness of people, and the way that good creates good.

Be Bright and Happy

If we are willing to seek it.

Kid Christmas Tree

There is magic.

Magic of Christmas

We must only believe.

Believe in the Magic

This season of Advent in anticipation of Christmas, we have been glad to show our dear little ones that the world is indeed bright and happy, and show them that they have a special purpose here. I hope you will go out into the world and bring what only you can bring. Now, as all the earth is waiting to celebrate the divine Light and Love, I wish you all a glorious season.


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Your Comments

4 Comments so far

  1. Karen Babb says:

    Your words fill my heart, I look forward to each post! ( guess I didn’t hit post when I commented yesterday!) 😉

  2. Mary K Bolte says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed as always. Peace. Merry Christmas!

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