Many years ago, on Christmas Eve, I found myself alone in a dark house where I rented a small room from a stern elderly woman. One who had no use for my companionship.
Weary from working two jobs & painfully aware that I was still single (with no family in Hawaii), I had come home and was looking in vain for something to eat. Back then it wasn’t unusual to go days without eating but the sparse kitchen was annoyingly bare and literally all I could rustle up was a ragged torn package of Ramen Noodles, minus the noodles I soon discovered. Attempting to stay positive, I boiled some water and mixed in the seasoning packet, which had been suspiciously opened as well.
Resigned, I sat the bowl down and laughed out loud as I plugged in a tangled cord that lit up a gawdy shining star made of colored lights that someone at work had thrown away. With no tree to attach it to, it lay unceremoniously on the table next to my bowl. Even in my glum state, the irony of the pathetic picture amused me to no end.
As I took a slurp of my homemade “Christmas Soup,” I realized in disgust that there were tiny dead bugs floating along the top. “Really????” (Hawaii is beautiful but its roach problems are another story.) With lightning speed the memories of the open packet and the missing noodles, made their truth known. I slowly turned green, made worse from the cast of the cheap glittering star. Grasping all the life teachings and astute wisdom I’d accumulated over the years, I marveled and thought to myself: THIS SUCKS.
By now tears were streaming down my face, either from hunger or sheer exhaustion or just plain frustration. But EVEN THEN, I remember thinking, clear to this day, that I was going to stay postive, no matter what!
I promised God I was still grateful, and in proving so, I got up and started singing “Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday dear Jesus…” as I danced around the room giggling at myself.
Suddenly, there came a knock at the door. Surprised, I found Tom and Ethel, an older couple from my church, smiling from ear to ear holding bags and bags of groceries. In the midst of being surrounded by their family, (celebrating Tom’s Christmas Eve birthday at that!) they explained that God had instructed them to stop what they were doing and go shopping! Not just bring leftover food from the dark recesses of their pantry, mind you, cans of blah asparagus and beets reserved for scary lunch ladies. NO! We’re talking PopTarts, Cheetos, Mac-n-Cheese! Party food!!
Careful not to embarass me, “We weren’t sure if you needed anything but…” as they smiled and apologized that they had to get back home to family. I was amazed since I was careful not to let on to anyone how dire my situation was.
It was in THAT moment, seeing their extra-ordinary act of obedience and feeling the pure love that flowed freely from them, that a solid seed was planted in my heart. I knew then that I would dedicate my life to helping others. The POWER of Random Acts of Kindness was mine!!
Fast forward 30+ years. I’m sitting in the ridiculously big house I asked God for, so that I could always have a home to share with those who were weary, alone and needing a refuge. And while I never mastered the art of cooking, there is always food to share. I have seen teenagers, transients, elderly relatives, neighbor kids, orphans, and traveling friends all come and go through my “always open doors.”
But words cannot describe how I felt when my sweet daughter gave me her Christmas note.
The couple from the story? We have reconnected on FB and they have never failed to send me a Christmas card each and every year.
Those who know me are familiar with my “no beets” policy, meaning – “Don’t just give. Give the GOOD STUFF!”
Please don’t ever forget what this season is about! As I fondly and gratefully celebrate the upcoming Christmas Eve and also that one from so long ago, I look at my husband and all the kids – the family I thought I’d never have! – and I know I won’t.
Rainy was featured on the cover of the November 2007 issue of Fayette Woman Magazine. You can read her story here: Life through the lens with Rainy Chastine.