And so this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun.
Those are the first lines in the song Happy Christmas written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1971. It has a joyful, lilting tune but is really a serious song encouraging us to think about the needs of others, including those ‘near and dear’ to us, the poor, the old and young. The song expresses hope those people will have a happy coming year free from fear. The opening question is thought-provoking. What we have done to make the world a better, more secure place for others?
When I think of someone who made the world a positive, safe place for those ‘near and dear’ to her, I am reminded of my mother-in-law Anne who died in October. In this picture she is with my niece Rachel. At her funeral one of her grandsons, Beau, spoke about a time when he was a little boy staying at his Oma’s house. A warning about an approaching tornado came across the television screen. His Oma told him not to worry but said they needed to go into the basement. The two of them huddled in a corner in the cellar for a long time. I imagine that all the while my mother-in-law spoke softly, talking to her grandson to distract him and keeping her arm around him. Beau says he has never forgotten that experience because he remembers how utterly safe and loved he felt with his Oma.
My father-in-law is in a nursing home and when I think of people who make the world a less fearful and better place for the old, I am reminded of the caring, patient men and women who make the happiness of the elderly their priority. The staff at the Mennonite Home in Leamington, Ontario laugh with my father-in-law, pray with and for him, encourage him and make sure he is safe, clean and occupied with meaningful activities. They take a personal interest in Dad. People who work in nursing homes deserve recognition and affirmation for what they do to make the world a better, less fearful place for seniors.
Parents of young children need recognition and affirmation too. This is a photo of our Hong Kong friends Jeff and Susan Herzog with their three boys. I follow Susan’s blog as well as the blogs of three other mothers who are my friends and are in the midst of raising young children, and I check out the Facebook updates of my nieces and nephews who are also parents. As I read about their day to day struggles and joys I realize what an important job it is to parent children so they will become responsible, good people. It isn’t always easy to maintain secure, loving homes and determine what is the best thing to do in order to raise happy, healthy children who will grow up to be visionary, contributing citizens. It’s a job vital to society.
When I consider someone who has made the world a little less fearful and a better place for the poor, I think of Joy Neufeld, from my former church, Grace Mennonite in Steinbach, who started Soup’s On in the church basement in 2004. It is a project her fellow church members and the whole community have rallied around. Soup’s On serves hot meals to some 80 people two nights a week and provides nutritious lunches for school children. Joy’s dedication has made the world a happier, less daunting place for many needy people. Joy is on the left in this photo and on her right is Simone Penner another Soup’s On volunteer.
As I think about the people I know who have done things this last year to quell fear and give hope I’m inspired and motivated to do my best to be one of those people too in 2012.