Thursday, December 20, 2012

the amazing power of hope


I had originally planned to write a post today about some of the Christmas traditions we do around our home.

Simone over at The Bottom of the Ironing Basket wrote a lovely post describing the special ways her family celebrates Christmas each year, and I’d been inspired to slow down and think about this topic myself. It was such a mindful act, I thought, I want to do that too.

Only I’m learning something about writing. You can have a perfectly good idea formulated inside your head but when you start to write, your heart can immediately intrude and start dictating words that lead you someplace quieter. And unexpected.

So here I am sharing my recent experience with hope.



I guess Aristotle would label it as a waking moment. But I call it a much needed drink for my parched soul.

Because I can’t deny that on some deeper level, I feel profoundly shaken by the loss of lives in Connecticut. Do you notice it too? Whatever your views about the instantaneous media feeds, it’s connected us in a national sadness. It’s made it possible to feel the heaviness of loss for children we never knew, but we can imagine in the faces of our own.

It’s a shadowy sensation I felt even as I strolled into the lighted school gymnasium the other night.

For several years now, our family meets at St. Philomene’s Church to serve Christmas dinner to those in the community who are struggling.



We volunteers, young and old, stand in a circle before dinner and hold hands while the kind judge who runs the program, reminds us that we’re serving dignity as much as food to our guests. The fact that our guests usually have bad teeth, dirty clothes and small children that break my heart are besides the point.


We’re all family on this cold night.

We began this tradition when my boys needed Christian service hours for their school and it seemed like such a wonderful thing to do with their Mimi and Papa.

We go to this place because my parents are part of the established, well-oiled volunteer crew that does this year-around. And they’re really the amazing ones, these volunteers who commit hours of their lives each week to make sure these meals are served.

Me?  I’m just one of the “annuals” as the old, curmudgeon priest from our Church used to say disparagingly from the pulpit. It was one of the most mind-boggling ironies I ever witnessed. A parish priest finally has pews that are jam-packed for Christmas service and he chooses to waste his precious sermon on a stern lecture about Church attendance. Spewing guilt on Christmas. I never understood that, but that’s another topic.

My point is, I never forgot that old priest’s judgment. It colored my own view about my service at Thanksgiving and Christmas, leading me to minimize my actions. And it made me overlook something powerful.

Don’t misunderstand, I love looking up and seeing my seventy-one year old parents in their red aprons busily tending to their “jobs,” and I always feel an indescribable joy whenever I spot my boys bending down and making small talk with children huddled at the long, cafeteria tables.

But this year was different. Patrick’s still in San Luis Obispo finishing classes and Michael had a conflict with Crew.

So this is what it’s like when your kids are growing up, I thought. And I expected less as I walked through the doors, with a mood that was more solemn than usual.

Only I was surprised.

Isn’t that how life happens?


Suddenly I began to notice people. People I’ve seen over the years now. I never knew Jason worked at HP and traveled all the way from Texas with his photography equipment each year. He was sitting at the table with another ‘tech’ guy checking the computer screen for the photographer. If the Santa photo was good there was a thumbs-up sign with a smile, and the kids could be on their way.

He comes every Christmas.

So does the attorney who was lifting the toddler on Santa’s lap for her family photo. When her tattered pink sock fell off he immediately bent down to slip it back on. I stood next to him the whole night stamping hands with the words, ‘Christmas Blessings,’ so we would know who got gifts. And I never knew his name, but I saw him last year too.

And the blonde woman again. The one who brings the girls that look like they just stepped out of a photo shoot for a teen magazine. They were in charge of the distribution of presents again. And they come once a year too. In fact, this year the twin sisters hand-crocheted caps and sold them on Facebook for twelve dollars each. And these girls made six hundred dollars that they donated for the gifts being given.

More dizzying bright light.

Waking me up.

And I saw the little girl lifting her baby brother up while I put her Christmas stocking into her hand. And noticed she only had two fingers. And excitement in her eyes.

Then I saw Brian and Ryan, friends that Patrick had grown up with who were back from college; they had stopped by to join the group of young people on the stage singing Christmas songs for our guests. Only when they came up to hug me, I couldn’t talk. My memory blinded me and I suddenly saw them as kindergarteners with goofy smiles again, and here they were, tall and handsome and amazing with their kindness.

And then in the midst of happy pandemonium there was Mr. Moss, appearing in front of me after one of his crazier work days. Joking with my parents and walking around offering desserts.


At the end of the night, as we went through the kitchen to get outside my Dad stopped me. He tapped the lady at the sink and the sweet old man who had a wet shirt from washing all the big pots and they looked up. He wanted to introduce me and he joked with them, “why these two want to be back here, I don’t know…”

And he was right. These two people were hidden back where no one could see them. Inside a cramped, steamy, wet kitchen away from any hint of Christmas music or any sign of a child’s smile. And where surely no appreciation would find them.

I realized I was staring at sheer selflessness.

But the old man simply beamed and said, “Oh, we’re all workin’ hard…”

And for one moment his smile lit up the whole world.


And it occurred to me.

This is what Hope looks like in real life.



*this post is dedicated to the children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School

blessings to you my reader,




I’m linking up here:




thistlewoodfarm said...

Oh my sweet friend...seriously. This post is so amazing. I have tears in my eyes and healing in my heart. Thank you so much more than I can ever express to you how wonderful this post is.

You are amazing.

Merry Christmas blessings to you,

Catie @ Catie's Corner said...

Just beautiful! We are more fortunate than we ever realize. It's sad that it takes a tragedy like last week to wake us up to all we do have. Thank you for your lovely words.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!! =)

~ Catie

Ladies Holiday said...

So well said, thank you for creating this space for this kind of connection. Peace to you this season.

mary d said...

just beautiful Leslie!

Gypsy Heart said...

I just found your blog and I'm so glad I did! This post is so touching and I thank you for sharing. I've vacillated between sorrow and joy, peace and discomfort and a myriad of other feelings since last Friday's horrific incident. I do believe that we can make positive changes, even in small actions.

We are so very blessed and have everything we need. I wish you and yours the most blessed holiday season and a wonderfully happy 2013.

I'm a new follower so I shall return! :)


Kim Porter said...

Love it!

Cathi said...


Mary Ann Pickett said...

I am humbled by the kindness and beauty in your words.

Unknown said...

You write with such tenderness and love Leslie...a beautiful post and a heartfelt dedication..."I can't change the world but I can change the world in me"...
if only we all thought this way what a lovelier world we would all live in...
Thank you for popping by Leslie, I love hearing from you.

Beverly said...

You have left me weeping. Thank you for sharing your kind heart and your joy with all of us.

White Ironstone Cottage said...

Love this post and your lovely blog too
Merry Christmas

Monica said...

This is such an amazing post Leslie. It made me cry. I'm so so glad that you have this platform. Thank you so much for reminding all of us to examine the lens in which we view our world. Wishing you a beautiful Christmas. With Love - Monica

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Beautiful post, Leslie! Thank you for the sharing your lovely words. Merry Christmas.

Leena Milligan Lanteigne said...

Beautiful post! Thank you so much for sharing! Merry Christmas! Hugs, Leena

Debra@CommonGround said...

sending Christmas hugs and love, xo

Richella Parham said...

Oh, my. I just now had a chance to read this. I am partly sad that I've missed it until now, and partly so grateful that I got to read it now. Because I needed the blessing of reading it TODAY.

Thank you. Thank you for your service. But mostly thank you for seeing and for caring and for sharing that with us.

God bless you! And Merry Christmas!

sarahssidebar said...

What a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing this!
I'm a new follower from An Aloha Affair. Can't wait to read more updates from you!


WhatJeanLikes said...

Hope drives us every day to do good, to keep going amidst the bad in the world. I truly love your words and sentiments that you so eloquently shared in this post.

If you have time, we'd love to have you come and link up to the Aloha Friday Blog Hop if you haven't already! (Thank you so very much if you've already linked up, I truly appreciate it!!) I'm following you BTW :)

Come and link up, enter the giveaway (if you haven't yet) and celebrate the coming weekend with us!


Jean {What Jean Likes}

Anonymous said...

What a pretty inspirational post <3

I'm your new follower from the Aloha Blog post :)


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post. Hi! I found your blog on the hop and am your newest follower! Thought that you might (please) wanna hop on by my blog and follow me back!!


Tamera Beardsley said...

My dear ... this is amazing!

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