More to the Story

We sat together around a table, sharing stories.

One person shared various triumphs they had recently celebrated. The rest of us listened, sharing our excitement and enthusiasm. Then the conversation took an unexpected turn-- not in a bad way, just surprising. Reflecting on the time together afterward, a friend said, "There must be more to the story."

There often is.

Just this morning I was at Dillingham Intermediate school, opening the doors for 5th and 6th graders as they began their Friday. I do this about once a month-- I'll be out there next Friday too-- and every time I remember one encounter with a student from last year. He came to the door, wearing sunglasses and a hoodie. I said, "Good morning!" Pulling his hood over his face, now completely hidden, he said, 


Every child has their own unknown stories as they enter the school. So as I was out there this morning, standing in the rain and the cold, I reminded myself why I do it: this may be the only time today they are greeted with a smile and a "Have a great day!" or "Happy Friday!"

This time of year can be a very difficult time for many of us. Some carols present a happy, cheerful life: "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" "It's the happiest season of all!" Others reflect a more somber tone: "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams." Many of us feel pressured to make Christmas joyful, but honestly, we are not there emotionally. We may be going through a divorce, mourning the death of a loved one, or feeling lost and alone. Recent studies have shown that people are experiencing loneliness at alarming rates-- one in Britain said 10% of kids under 14 are lonely, and even more, 14%, of those under age 10 are lonely. Social media doesn't help. Once thought of as great way of connecting people, now we're learning that "social" can leave us more isolated, having to pretend to be happy or feeling the pressure to live up to everyone else's happiness.

So yeah, there is more to the story. It's probably true for every single one of us.

It seems like I've spent more time at hospitals than usual recently. Surgeries, illnesses... Last week a member of the church went to the hospital. His Sunday school class leaped into action: trying to reach out to distant family, visiting him, keeping each other and me informed of developments, being the presence of Christ for a friend in need. It was a great example of the church being the church. There may be others who are hurting, but they are not in hospital, so the need may not be so obvious.

This week, let's encourage others who may be feeling isolated or hurt. Think about your circle of friends or your neighbors. Is anyone in need this Christmas? Is anyone grieving, feeling lonely, in need of a comforting meal or a visit? Can you send a hand written note of encouragement? Be a spiritual friend this week, sharing the warmth of Christ in the midst of this cold, dreary weather we're experiencing. No one should go through the final days leading to Christmas feeling unknown.

Here's a prayer I found from the Duke University Chapel:

When my mind is anxious, Holy Spirit, come to rest on me, and give me peace.

When my heart longs for healing, Holy Spirit, call me your beloved child, and hold me in your arms.

When I feel like I am not enough, Holy Spirit, be pleased with me, and let me delight in you.