Each year, as we come to the time of 'Black Friday', we find the marketers of our society ever pushing us to go further and further into our pockets (or more appropriately, into our own red ink) to "give that special something that the one you love most really, really, REALLY wants."
Some of us are now beyond that age that we used to consider 'old', and so we need to consider our perspectives as being sourced from those who are viewed by the rest of society (meaning those under 40 or so) as being fossils, not connected with "the way the world is today".
But let us offer a perspective that perhaps shows that things really haven't changed very much in the years that intervene from when we were "young people" (in our 30's or so) until now.
Some of us will remember the craze over a particular toy called "the Cabbage Patch doll". It was all the rage at the time of Christmas in 1983. We had two beautiful little daughters who were 4 and 3 at the time, and of course, this is the toy that they wanted. And, as all good marketers know, to generate a craze over a new toy, the best way to do it is to release the toy just before Christmas, and then to assure that there is a 'shortage' of the toys. The dolls, in 1983, sold retail for just under $30 (a lot in 1983), but because the dolls were 'scarce', people were buying and reselling at up to $200.
At the time, we weren't able to enter that 'race' for the original toy. We rationalized that our little girls wouldn't know the difference, and so we bought a knock-off "look-alike". It was a happy Christmas, I guess.
But now, 30 years later, I often sit back and wonder. Those little girls were 4 and 3 at the time. How many times in their young lives, and in the lives of their brother and sisters who followed, did we do similar kinds of things, specifically meaning "going with the world", following the trends, and giving them what we thought would "make them happy", as opposed to teaching them the value of what might be done with time, money, but most especially, love, that could bring even more happiness?
How might the lives of 5 people who are now raising families of their own be different, and how might the lives of those families being raised today be changed, had we instead of caving to the "toy of the year" given them the gift of going and feeding those in need, or working on a clothing drive, or packing food baskets for the hungry? And beyond this question, how would the world be different if many of us, or even most of us, gave that same attention to the needs of those whom our Lord showed us to be our neighbors, those whom He places in our paths as ones in need and for whom He has given us resources to help?
If we go to the calendar and go way back, somewhere about this time of year in 1969, I was blessed to be a member of a high school Key Club, and 'service' was what the organization was all about. We went door to door in a little community of less than 5000 people, and we asked for canned goods, boxed goods, anything that might make for meals for the needy. After all was collected, we filled a gymnasium with the food, arranged it into bundles, went out and bought turkeys, got information from the local Bureau of Human Services about needy families, and went to deliver the goods to those in need. This is now 44 years ago, I know - but the memory of that day of delivery is as vivid as any memory I still have, because of two very different encounters.
In the first, we went to a home that was run down, but brightly decorated with Christmas lights. A fire was burning and smoke poured from the chimney, giving a wonderful odor to the place as we arrived. Four young boys trekked to the door and knocked, joyous to deliver what some of us (and in that town, it was most of us) knew to be a God-blessed package of goods for someone who was in need. As the door opened, it did so by just a crack. A woman's face appeared, and she immediately closed the door, as we could hear her calling loudly to her husband. A few moments later, he came to the door, asking us why we were so late? They were expecting us an hour earlier, and what an inconvenience it was to have to wait for their food..... We received a rather gruff, "Leave your basket there, and get out of here!"
We left crushed. We thought that God had given us a joyous task, and we went to perform it with that joy. And now, we just wanted to get the other three baskets out of our car and get home.
We delivered two more baskets, rather uneventfully. Perhaps they're not remembered because of our own loss of faith in people. For now, I can't say.
But when we came to the final house, we again found a very run down building. A chimney, but no smoke. There were gaps around the door, evidencing a draft in the house. As we knocked, it took some time before a very old woman came and opened the door. As she did, she broke into tears, weeping. "You came! You really came! O God! Come in, my dears, come in!!!!" She brushed a tear from her eye. "You can't imagine what this means to me...." And, several of us brushed a similar tear. She didn't have to tell us. We could see that there was nothing in her home to compare to things that we had, and as she offered us a drink, hospitality from one who had nothing herself, we declined, because it was clear that we would be taking from that which she herself so desperately needed. At the time, I didn't know exactly how to pray for such things, but I do recall exiting her door, making the sign of the Cross, and saying, "Thank you, Lord!" - both for the woman, and for those of us who had the honor of meeting her.
Lives can be changed by simple encounters. But very few lives are changed by receiving the "current toy" at 4, or at 12, or at any age. "Things" don't matter nearly as much as people do. I can't remember what I might have received as a gift for Christmas in 1969. I was 17 at the time. You might think it would be important. But I can't remember a thing about the 'things' of that year. And while I don't know the names of the first family mentioned, or of the old woman, they will forever be a part of who I have become as a person.
That was the gift from God that was most important. For too many years, I allowed the world to help me 'forget' the lessons that God offered when I was younger. Now, I wonder - How can I repent for my omissions? And more still, how can this lesson be used to help those young people who are raising families of their own?
Welcome to Saint Herman's, Hudson, Ohio
This blog is a partial compilation of the messages, texts, readings, and prayers from our small mission community. We pray that it will be used by our own people, to their edification. And if you happen by and are inclined to read, give the glory to God!
The blog title, "Will He Find Faith on the Earth?" is from Luke 18:8, the "Parable of the Persistent Widow." It overlays the icon of the Last Judgment, an historical event detailed in Matthew Chapter 25, for which we wait as we pray in the Nicean Creed.
We serve the Holy Orthodox cycle of services in contemporary English. Under the omophorion of His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Bulgarian Patriarchal Diocese of the USA, Canada and Australia, we worship at 5107 Darrow Road in Hudson, Ohio (44236). If you are in the area, please join us for worship!
Regular services include:
Sunday Divine Liturgy 10AM (Sept 1 - May 31)
930AM (June 1 - Aug 31)
Vespers each Saturday 6PM
We pray that you might join us for as many of these services as possible!