He walked out to the get the newspaper, just like he does every morning. He still gets the paper out of habit. And for something to do. He used to look at the sports section, but now watches ESPN until late at night, the updated scores streaming in real time across the bottom scroll.
Heavy and messy, today’s paper is stuffed with ads. It’s just one more reminder that Christmas is coming, as if he could possibly get away from that fact. The grocery store has been playing Taylor Swift Christmas songs since Halloween. And the mailbox has been reminding him of the dreaded day for weeks. Everything is red and green, oblivious to the fact he is color blind.
He just doesn’t see the fuss.
One piece of mail last week struck him hard. “Make this the One Christmas You’ll Remember,” the headline screamed just above the glittering diamonds circling around a woman’s head like a flock of doves. He ran the ad through the shredder.
After his wife left seven years ago his only daughter quit talking to him, even though she lives in the same town. He retired early, thinking it would bring him bliss. Instead its only magnified the loneliness. And he certainly doesn’t need another reminder about the joyous holidays.
I hate this blasted season
She rolls the bed comforter down, glad she has the added level of warmth. It’s going to dip down into the 20’s tonight and the heater just won’t keep up with the cold. After the cat disappeared one day into the vast fields on the edge of the neighborhood, the bed has been especially lonely.
She fingers the cards that have come in the mail. The photos of happy couples and their children are potent reminders that she has neither . Never imaging life would be this way, it is. Relationships were never easy. It’s too easy to blame her father and his disapproving stare or her mother’s absence when life’s questions about boys and bodies and emotions just started forming.
She put a little fake Christmas tree on the table in her living room. Lost in the Hallmark movie of the night, she figures out the plot in the first five minutes, but still she perseveres to the end – and weeps at exactly the right moment just before the Macy’s commercial closes out the night.
Who ever started this stupid day?
Lonely, but not alone
The culture tries to remind us that Christmas is all about wishes come true. But I don’t know how you got here – or why you read this far. Maybe you see yourself in the story – or are afraid that someday you could be that person.
I know loneliness and it doesn’t always come from solitude. I’ve felt the coldness in the room of someone who says they just don’t care anymore. I’ve sat with an older person on Christmas as they wondered why the kids don’t call – or come by. It’s another day by the window with all the others who are feeling the sinking sense that no one cares.
While I know loneliness, I don’t always understand it. It seems particularly cruel, affecting the kind and the godly and the giving. It’s not dispensed fairly with any sense of justice. I’ve pleaded with God for answers to questions and I don’t really care for the answers.
How to pierce the darkness
This world is full of darkness. You see it in the workplace, in the home, in halls of politics, and in every community. But here’s a truth – light is stronger than dark. It has always been the ultimate symbol of hope. A single star pierces through a billion miles of space. A lighthouse can call out to the mariner surrounded by the black sea. A flashlight can illuminate the hidden path.
Even though your situation may seem dire, I still think this Christmas can be the best you’ve ever had : Be the hope. Be a candle. Light a match. And if the wind snuffs it out, light it again.
Find another lonely person and make their day. Pick up the phone, and call a friend. Show up at a shelter and talk to man grizzled by time and foraging for survival. Volunteer to sit in the lunchroom at a nursing home and talk to the woman who has lost her words to the sands of time, but eyes and ears still witness life.
It’s not about finding someone more miserable than you. That’s a loser’s game that selfishly makes you out to be the superior.
But when the tug on your heart sneaks up in the midnight hour, or in the prime time of another Christmas special, or in the silence of the room, remember this is the day that can be light to another. If you want to make your day, make their day. I had someone tell me once, “If you are looking for a way out of the hole you are in, first climb out of yourself.”
I can’t give you any words that will heal the pain you have. People are cruel. Life is unfair. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t pretend to know your situation – I get it. But I do know the best way out of a dark place is find a little light. It doesn’t have to be beacon or a spotlight or a thousand watts of brilliance. All the darkness in the world can’t snuff out the light of a single, simple candle.
And that might be just enough to change your Christmas.
Share with me one commitment you will make this Christmas to be a candle to the lonely?