I believe in those little miracles that go unnoticed unless you choose to recognize them.
This is about one of those little miracles.
Like many people this year, our Christmas was canceled when my wife Susan and I realized we had COVID. Our children and grandchildren and friends could not be put at risk.
I was unspeakably sad as I sat in a silent house surrounded by wrapped Christmas gifts that would remain unopened and visible for the rest of the day.
We survived. We went out to the driveway masked to deliver Christmas gifts to Susan’s children and their girlfriends, who are thankfully local. After New Year’s when our quarantine was over, we were fortunate to have my son visit with his girlfriend, which was wonderful. We will be driving gifts up to Connecticut to my daughter and her husband and my granddaughter in about a week. We survived.
But then one of those little miracles happened.
January 6th is the 12th day of Christmas which traditionally marks the end of that holiday’s celebrations. This year, that day also marked the one-year anniversary of the assault on the Capitol.
But it is also the birthday of a lifelong friend I met in law school over 40 years ago. He is now seriously disabled and not easily able to leave his house. Because of COVID, he was also unable to invite his family and friends to his home to celebrate Christmas or his 70th birthday. But his children and their loved ones spontaneously organized a surprise Zoom call to wish him a happy birthday.
The gathering on Zoom included not only his law school friends but also friends of all ages, backgrounds, and political beliefs. It was huge.
It is hard to feel joy from a Zoom call, but in this case, it was palpable and undeniably warm and beautiful. At the center of it was a man who has transcended difficulties with tenacity and joy and has always lived a passionate life of kindness and commitment.
The next day, I called him so I could talk to him one-on-one. During that call, he told a story quite accidentally.
He owns a beautiful little house near Annapolis, which he can only stay in during the summer because it is too difficult for him to travel back and forth.
A week or so before his birthday, he had been asked by a teacher at a special school if he could perhaps open up his summer house to help a troubled middle school student regain her sense of security in a new environment after a difficult event in her life.
My friend didn’t think twice. He told the teacher to open the house and turn on the heat and use it for as long as it could be helpful.
As he told the story he offhandedly said, “That was the most beautiful present I got for Christmas or my birthday.”
For me, selfish and sad in a house empty during Christmas, this brought what Christmas is, in full force, back to me.
He had received nothing and given instantly from his heart.
After the call I hung up and was surprised to find myself crying.
On the last day of Christmas, my friend had reminded me what Christmas is supposed to be: a moment of reawakening and joy in a forever troubled world.
My friend had given me that gift.
It was one of those little miracles.