The Unlikely Christmas Connection
Updated: Dec 28, 2021
I plunked myself down beside Henry with my ketchup bottle in hand. He hadn’t showered in days, but his hair was slicked back neatly to one side and he was wearing his best collared sweater and jogging pants.
It was Christmas Day 2017 and Henry and I both found ourselves at the shelter.
If you’d asked, neither of us really wanted to be there.
But we both needed to be.
Henry had come into hard times - job loss and a marital break down led him to turn to alcohol to cope. He lost everything.
I had come into hard times too.
This was my first Christmas after.
My first Christmas after my husband left.
My first Christmas after my life was turned upside down.
I met Henry months prior when my pain led me to volunteer at the shelter.
I had been affectionately dubbed the ketchup girl on Monday nights - moving from guest to guest, squirting ketchup on the plates of men and women who had found themselves in hard times.
It was as weird as it sounds. And it might not seem like a big deal. But to my new friends at the shelter, ketchup made all the difference!
It turns out, ketchup squirting is a real ice breaker, and a ridiculously important job!
“It’s the little things that count!” Henry smiled back at me - his dinner dripping in ketchup.
On this Christmas Day I was part of a team serving turkey dinner to the 300 guests who had no where else to go.
Our team hand delivered overflowing plates of turkey and all the fixings covered in gravy, served up on pretty plates and presented to our guests on fancy Christmas table cloths. It was a feast!
And as I scurried around with ketchup in hand (and yes, ketchup - it turns out - has a place at a turkey dinner), I was overcome with gratitude.
Gratitude for this Christmas reminder - Christmas is about connection.
It’s about the little things. It’s about the extra touches and the welcoming smiles. It’s about really seeing each other. And it’s about going the extra mile just because we can.
I looked around that room, full of people I had come to care about - while our stories were different - our needs were the same.
We needed connection.
We needed to be seen.
We needed to know we mattered.
And in that shelter, on Christmas Day, we all felt less lonely and less broken.
Connection is the place where healing starts and hope finds its footing.
And as I think about it today, in so many ways, Christmas is the birthplace of connection.
It marks that pivotal moment when Jesus came close.
It still boggles my mind, how a small child brought real life and real meaning to the world.
He brought real connection.
That small child was (and continues to be) a very big deal!
This Christmas, let’s look for the small things that leave a big impact.
Say hello to the lady at the Christmas Kettle - maybe even drop a buck or two in.
Take time to make eye contact.
Give. Be present. Love well.
Because on the receiving end of your small act of connection may be a person like Henry who finds himself in hard times.
We can follow the example of Jesus this Christmas - and bring the gift of connection.
And the gift of really seeing someone.
You might find - as I did - that your heart is fuller for it. And it’s the small things that really count.
Wishing you the full Joy of Christmas.