December 25, 2012

community.. the spirit of the season

i woke this morning with a list of things to do:  applying sealant around windows and bathroom sinks, planting seeds, figuring out the cost of baking 2 birthday cakes for my friend, and renewing our passports.  by mid-morning, after our water was delivered and breakfast was made, my mind started entertaining the idea of baking cookies for our neighbors and the families of the jr. youth group.  i had given our night guard some breakfast (as he was still on duty 3 hours past his 12-hour shift) and my heart began to feel that familiar ache for the hardworking people who suffer through the days in ways i know i have never suffered..

after finishing up using what was left of the sealant, i figured out the cost of the cakes and emailed my friend the amounts.  at that moment i felt invigorated to manage the rest of my day around making a stew for dinner and a sugar dough for cookies.  the kids were playing the board game Risk with their Aba and enjoying art, football on tv, and playing chess.  it was a perfect day for me to get things done for myself and the family, but it became a perfect day to focus on being of service to others in the spirit of Christmas..

the afternoon flew by as i felt like i was racing the time while making the dough, letting it cool, preparing a stew for dinner, and using cookie cutters on a floured surface to make as many cookies as possible.  i added powdered sugar to leftover butter-cream icing i had made for a carrot cake last week to make it a bit stiffer.  we separated the icing into 3 bowls; the kids enjoyed adding green and red food coloring to 2 of them.  they decorated them beautifully and let them set in the refrigerator for a little bit while we were like an assembly line trying to sort them into several containers.  it was too difficult to make individual arrangements so we grouped them by areas and ended up with 3 bigger packages instead of 12..

near the end of this process i had sms'd the jr. youth group to come pick up the cookies to take home to their families.  as my kids and i ventured out with a container to begin sharing cookies with our neighbors, we came upon 2 of the jr. youth who found us at one of the homes next to us.  they followed and observed as we met and introduced ourselves to new people while greeting familiar faces.  a few people were skeptical but most were happily surprised with wide-eyed smiles of appreciation.  it was one of those moments in my life where i am very consciously aware of the spirit of service being released into the world, exerting an influence in ways beyond the actual act of kindness.

what touched my heart the most throughout this experience of sharing cookies was meeting a young mother who lives in a wooden home supported by cement blocks.  she invited me inside to meet her sleeping baby.  i was introduced to her home with trust as she picked her baby up from the floor where a layer of blankets made a bed surrounded by mosquito netting.  after greeting her beautiful baby i said i would return when it was a better time to visit.  outside she was boiling spaghetti in a small pot over an open fire while a Ghanaian stew simmered in another pot.  it is this way of life that i admire, that i am in awe about -- how people know how to live with very basic accommodations, without electricity or running water, surrounded by the forces of nature at all times.  this gesture of offering a cookie was merely a way of making a soul to soul connection, a symbol of sharing the oneness of our humanity, as we all strive to live in this world..

as a Baha'i, i do not celebrate the outward forms of Christmas which typify the middle-class world: decorations, gift-giving, Santa Claus, etc..  our family carries on as it's just another day.  we remember the birth of Jesus and then continue striving to live life as a spiritual human being -- this is the essence of what Jesus represents to us.  He perfectly embodied the virtues of humility, self-sacrifice and gentleness.  the spirit of Christmas is purely about the Light of God that He brought into the world as God's Divine Teacher for humanity 2000 years ago.  today, connecting with my neighbors, who are very far removed from all the material trimmings of Christmas, helped me celebrate the true spirit of Christmas. 

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