Monday, December 24, 2012

A Simple Christmas Gift

Christmas lights in Bucharest Romania
I've been thinking a lot about Christmas recently. Most especially when I was in Romania. Those where special Christmas times for me. My second Christmas I was in Sector Five of București. It was a frigid winter where we would walk outside and moisture would freeze to everything. Our coats, the fences, the trees, our faces, everything. As cold as this was it did look beautiful.

I was far away from my family and looking forward to talking to them on Skype come Christmas Day. The distance made it really hard for them to send me anything for Christmas so I wasn't really expecting anything. This was actually really liberating. I was away from all of the hustle and bustle of the season. Away from wanting gifts and things like that. It taught me that I don't really need things. All that matters are relationships, like talking with my family or visiting the people I was working with.

Ferentari, A neighborhood in Bucharest where
Mihaela lives.
During this season we were working with the Nița family. They lived in a very poor and dangerous area of town. It was hard to get people to make visits with us because they were afraid of that part of the city. Mihaela was the mother and sole breadwinner her family of three children. She worked a security job to try and make ends meet. They lived in more than humble circumstances. Little food, few possessions  lots of bills.

Despite these trials they tried hard to be happy and to have faith. One day we visited and Mihaela had "decorated" the apartment. A few ribbons, a couple Santa figurines, and picture of the nativity. We complemented her on the added touch to her home and the festive feeling it brought. Flattered, Mihaela presented us with a gift. One which is now amoung my most cherished Christmas gifts.

She took an old Santa figure, the kind that is supposed to dance and sing, but was too old, broken, and had nor batteries, and gave it to me as a remembrance of my București Christmas. It was one of the grandest decorations they had, but they gave it from the bottom of their hearts, sharing all they had to give, all they could give. I was profoundly touched by the present. That this family, who often had no food in the refrigerator, who had no career or financial stability, no new things of their own, could take a moment to think about me.

It taught me something important. We don't need to get. We don't need the big flashy gifts to have a Merry Christmas. It sounds cliche but Christmas really is about giving. Selflessly offering what we have to help the people we love, or people in need. I was given a plastic broken doll and I was immensely happy. Not because of the gift, but for what it represented; the relationships and friendships formed with this family.

This year I've only put up one decoration in my apartment. A little broken, plastic, Santa Claus that I keep on my desk. It reminds me, especially in this time of year, not to worry about the getting, but to seek to find how I can give to others. It doesn't have to be big, it just has to be something, and it has to be sincere.

1 comment:

Sheri said...

Very touching, thank you!