My eldest is completely and utterly besotted with the Christmas Spirit. He’s always liked Christmas, been a fan of the lights, and the presents, but this year, for whatever reason, has been particularly exciting for him. Perhaps it is because he, on some level, expects that the magic of Christmas might not be there next year. At least not at the same strength. He is in school now and exposed to any number of other children who may have already allowed simple belief to fall to the wayside of artificial maturity.
When my mother-in-law told us that there was a nearby Polar Express event, we jumped at the opportunity to attend. Children and their adults are invited wear their pajamas in public on a decorated train car while staff serve hot chocolate and cookies. After a few Christmas carols, the ride culminates at the round house the staff refer to as the North Pole. Santa appears, giving a sleigh bell to a child. Then everyone is once again shepherded back into the warmth of the car to return to the original station. Just as you think the entire event is over, Santa makes his way through the rest of the car, greeting each passenger and bestowing upon them their own sleigh bell souvenir.
My son turned to me as we walked back toward the parking lot, and with a voice full of wonder announced, “I can’t believe we were at the North Pole!”
It was priceless.
On Monday, the woman who watches my youngest during the day (a terrific stay at home mom who had also watched my eldest from the week he began to crawl), asked how the event had gone. My son described it in epic detail. Later she asked my husband for more details. Clearly my eldest had sold her on the experience. How far away was the museum? What hotels were nearby? How were the people?
How were the people? What an odd sort of question. My husband likely shared the same puzzlement as I did when he told me about it.
She must have seen the confusion on his face. “No offense, but I know this sort of thing is something I know you don’t have to deal with, but I need to know. We’ve had to leave places before because of the people.”
I had no idea…
I guess that was kind of her point.
Did I mention that she is a terrific woman. Well that hardly begins to describe how great she has been with my family over the years. When my eldest was still in her care he once told me that he loved her more than me, and you know what? I was okay with it (mostly). She is the closest person to Mary Poppins I’ve ever met. If there was ever a person destined to care for children, she would be it. I completely credit her for helping to develop my children into the kind and generous individuals they are today (they’ve taught me, not the other way around). After less than stellar early results with daycare (story for another day), I flat-out won the lottery when I came across her ad.
For all those reasons, it was hard for me to imagine that there might be those who didn’t equally love her on sight. But I’d overlooked one thing. She, and her husband, are Iraqi immigrants (and now Americans). While I might know that they were forced to flee their homeland due to religious persecution (leaving family behind who remain to this day at risk), to many others they are Middle Eastern and therefore immediately suspicious.
There are things that she’s heard, and treatment her family has received that had they happened to me, I would likely raise a ruckus. It would be the headline on my personal eleven o’clock news. Everyone would know about it. But for her, the same event might not even be worth mentioning. I used to think that was because she was because she was just a nicer person than I am. Now I am realizing that she remains quiet because unfortunately it is her everyday (although that doesn’t change the fact that she still is a nicer person than I am – case in point: her worrying that she might be offending me).
So this Christmas, give the gift of the benefit of the doubt, peace, and acceptance. That family you see over there, the one that looks so different, maybe just maybe they too are just trying to capture the magic that is this season. Even if you can’t share a background, at least share a smile. It might make all the difference.