Pondering Christmas

I got to know my neighbor Margaret soon after I moved to Eddystone. A few weeks before my first Thanksgiving in the neighborhood, Margaret lost her job; her husband was also out of work. I had gotten a free turkey from the grocery store and offered it to her. “That’s perfect,” she said, adding that she was preparing a holiday meal for one of our neighbors. I was astounded. I wanted to tell her that she and Rich needed the help, but, instead, I just gave her the turkey.

Without jobs and raising one of her nephews, all I could see was Margaret’s need, but she saw her blessings. She and Rich had a large family, they were healthy and they had a home. The job situation was a bump in the road for Margaret. Our neighbor’s issue, though, was long-term.

It was the first of many lessons in being other-centered that Margaret would teach me during the time we were neighbors.

Four years ago, Margaret asked me if I would join her in reading and discussing It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado. She established the reading schedule and we began, but soon after we began reading the book, Margaret was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and had surgery. She picked up an infection while she was in the hospital and spent the next four months being treated for the infection. Our book discussion halted.

Margaret and I were neighbors for fourteen years before she got sick—plenty of time for her to show me what it meant to live as a Christian. She was always available to help anyone who needed it. Every summer, she went on a week-long mission trip with her church, taking along everybody who responded to her invitation. When she was unemployed, which happened a few times over the years I knew her, she would take the train downtown and serve breakfast at a mission for people who were homeless. Margaret was the epitome of selflessness.

So when she asked me to read and discuss It’s Not About Me, I was surprised. “Margaret,” I said, “you could have written that book.” She disagreed. She saw the areas where God was inviting her to grow beyond herself and thought the book would help identify her blind spots.

Margaret had hospice care at home the last few weeks of her life, and during my last visit to her, just days before she died, I told her I had finished reading the book and confirmed my initial impression. “You could have written that book,” I told her.

Margaret comes to mind as I ponder the coming of Christmas. Her giving and forgiving is my everyday example of the meaning of Christmas. She lived her life knowing that she was held in the embrace of a loving God and that everything she had was gift. Her yes still inspires me.

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