Sunday, May 23, 2010

Stolen Blessings

One of the biggest lessons that I have learned in this experience has been to let people help me when I need it, even if I don't know that I do. I have a friend that is battling stage four cancer. Like me, she's a single mom. A couple of the differences are that she's in her third battle with a devastating form of the disease and she's the mother of three. It's heartbreaking and so many people want to do something to help. When I visited her recently, I sensed the hesitation she had when I started to try and nail down what we could do to help them. Now, I also had my friend Susan with me on that visit and that meant that I had to make a quick decision about a story that I thought would help her let us do something. But, it also meant coming clean. You see, the story involves Susan as a main character, but I hadn't ever told her the story either. I tell it now because I know it can help others let people help them, too.

Well first of all, there's a couple things that you need to know. I'm not proud of this, but it's none the less true. Once upon a time, I really wasn't very nice, tended to be primarily negative, and that attitude extended to just about everything...including Christmas lights. I remember driving around, not as a child but as a younger adult, to look at lights. I also remember multiple years that the "hunt" for good lights was unsuccessful.

You see, there were rigid requirements for the lights to be "good". They must only use white lights and they had to be the miniature kind, none of those big ones that we had when I was little. They also had to be hung completely tight so that they formed a perfect line, never one out of place. Lighted wreaths and garland were good as long as they were natural looking green and had red bows. Things in the yard were OK if they all matched, weren't too junky, and included a clearly demonstrated theme. Also, anything that blinked ruined the whole thing even if the house had qualified in every other way.

On the other hand, when I drove by a house that had those multi-color lights hung a little askew, some blinking and some not, I was horrified. "Who lives there? Aren't they embarrassed? Why bother?" I remember actually saying that out loud as if I were the Scrooge of Christmas lights critics. I now know exactly how ridiculous and awful this sounds, but truthfully even as Christmas approached last year I still had my preferences. I didn't have the same bad attitude about it, but the standards had been set long ago...

So, I picked Brayden up from Mom's on a Monday in early December after my 4th round of chemo. We were making the normal drive home when he asked, "Mommy can we have Christmas lights on our house? I really, really want them!" I still wasn't sure whether or not I could even put up a tree as bad as I was feeling. I knew for a FACT that we weren't going to have lights on the house. So, I said what moms say when the answer is "Not now or maybe ever" but we aren't up to the battle or willing to disappoint..."Not this year Brayden, but someday..."

That was the end of that...until Friday. So, we're home that Friday about 8:00, I think. The phone rings and it's Susan. She sounded excited, "Hey, the kids and I want to come over to your house and put up lights! It will be fun and Brayden can help!" Truthfully, I was instantly regretful that I picked up the phone. I wanted to say no simply because of how bad I felt after another week at work while living through chemo, but I could hear the excitement in her voice. "You don't have to do anything. Stay in bed! We'll show you when we're done," she continued.

"What kind of lights? What color?" I asked. Excitedly she added, "All kinds of colors!" I tried to dissuade her, but she was pretty set on doing this for me. I had a decision to mind flashed back to a class I took at church more than a year before. In that class, we had been taught that saying "no" when someone wanted to bless you was actually a theft of their blessing. I knew it was true because I knew how much I was blessed when I had the opportunity to do things for others. The giver with the right heart always get the bigger blessing of the two. So, was I going to steal her blessing along with a great lesson on "do unto others" from her kids, and what Brayden wanted most for Christmas in one fell swoop?

I wanted to, don't get me wrong. I really, really wanted to. I added up what we were talking about in my head...multi-colored lights(probably blinking no less)...hung by one woman and 3 kids...after 8:00 PM in December when it's pitch black outside. My worst Christmas nightmare coming to life...But, I'm no thief. So, I uttered a hesitant "yes." They arrived, got Brayden outside to help, and I went back to bed worried about the result. Two hours later, they came to get me for the big reveal. What was I going to say??

They walked me outside with my eyes closed to the sidewalk and turned me around. There they were multi-colored and loosely hung, complete with the string blinking from roof line to the electrical outlet near the porch. I could see the reflection of the lights as I looked at the excited faces and my heart just melted. Pure joy poured from Brayden's face. And you know what? Something in me changed in that moment because they were suddenly the most beautiful lights that I had ever seen. And because I said yes, we had all been blessed. So, who lives in those houses with loosely hung, multi-colored, partially blinking lights?? I do.


Unknown said...

I'm so glad your back. Please submit this story to Chicken Soup for the Soul.


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