Today I spoke to a Senegalese man who was standing outside a bakery selling books. After helping me get Ben and the stroller up and down the stairs, I started to ask him about his life. I asked if he was cold standing outside all day and he said yes but he needs to work to support his family. Then I asked him about his family and he told me about his wife and 18-month-old daughter, who still live in Senegal. He hasn't yet had the opportunity to meet his daughter because he hasn't had enough money to go back to see them. He was friendly and kind, but his eyes looked sad when he mentioned his family.
As we talked, I started thinking about the way I view the holiday season. It should be a season full of gratitude, and yet it is easy for it to become a season full of reminders of whatever material items I don't have. In an effort to combat this, I often remind myself that I need to be grateful that we even have money to buy presents and have a big Christmas meal. But my gratitude should be so much deeper than that. I am not required to stand outside in the cold in order to support my family. I have a visa that allows me to legally work here in Italy, and I am a citizen of a country where I could legally find work if I needed to. I have the privilege of a family support network that is financially stable enough for us to fall back on if we ever fall into need. I have health insurance. My husband, parents, brothers, sisters, and many friends have all been able to meet my baby boy. I am able to spend Christmas with my family. My son knows what it is to be deeply loved by many people, and was born with friends on multiple continents. When I see someone else with their baby, it doesn't bring up painful memories of a child who is far from me or a child whose life has been lost or a child I can't conceive. I have heat, electricity, running water, refrigeration, the ability to cook meals, and I have Christmas lights to make my home cozy. I have a marriage in which I am happy, satisfied, loved, challenged, cherished, respected, inspired, made to laugh, and am swept up into adventure.
Most importantly to me, I know the God who created me. I get to be in a relationship with the creator of love. I get to live at peace and in love with the most powerful being in existence. I am given the privilege of praying to him in the name of his son who died for me. This is the son who I committed my life to (a commitment that should be year-round and life-long), and his birth SHOULD be the purpose for my Christmas celebration.
So, today, I'm grateful for a Senegalese man who was willing to talk to me about his life, and in doing so remind me that this holiday season is the perfect time to allow my heart to be so overflowing with gratitude that there is no longer room to think about what I "don't have." In reality, I am somehow fortunate enough to already have everything that's really worth having.
Feel free to comment with what you are grateful for - I find that gratitude can be contagious :)
NOTE: I know that some of you reading this may not have some of the things that I mentioned, or may have experienced profound loss in your life (possibly even in the past year). Please know that my heart aches with each one of you. I think of many of you often and pray for you consistently. Your examples of faith and perseverance and determination and strength inspire me. Regardless of how big or small or heavy you may feel your struggle or loss is, please know that I will always feel honored to listen if you ever want to talk to me. Love, Rachel