Here's the thing about facebook: nothing, and I mean NOTHING you put on there is ever really private. You can cinch up your security settings as tight as Kris Jenner's face, and yet...sometimes all it takes is a friend of yours liking something on your page; commenting on your status and *BOOM* all of a sudden, you're not clucking away in a small gathering but rather, screaming to a packed stadium through a megaphone. Point being, people other than your friends can see the stuff you post.
Today I saw something that an old friend of mine posted. She was talking about how a friend of hers hated the Christmas season and felt like a Grinch because she couldn't buy her kids lots and lots of things. This saddened my old friend and led her to muse, much like SJP on SATC, "and it makes me wonder how many other people feel this way? Don't they know it's all about the birth of our savior? Tis the reason for the season. I wish more people would remember that." Or something like that.
Why do I bring this up? This old friend happens to be the woman who called me out about my financial status a few weeks ago. The one who, when I said I couldn't attend her birthday party because it was too far for me to drive, made a big stink out of it and went so far as to point out that she thought I'd been making "non-essential purchases" as of late (which I should really thank her for, by the way. "Non-essential" has become a running joke in my circle of hens). Anyhoo, it's all here in this recent post.
Was her status about me? I don't know. I'm not so self-absorbed to think that I'm the only one who may be dropping Grinch references about this time of year. He is pretty iconic, after all. I do know she reads my blog, which is fine with me...have at it, girl. And I do know that just a couple of days ago I mentioned in a post that I don't like this time of year because I feel like The Grinch. Coincidence? Mayhap.
But here's what chaps my hide about her post, and other posts just like this: it reeks of passive aggressiveness. Vague yet detailed status updates like this are today's version of writing on bathroom walls. Just like frustrated, spineless girls and boys used to scratch whatever what was on their mind onto the mint green painted walls of the high school lavatory, people now turn to facebook to tell the world what they think about their "friends".
Maybe she was talking about me, maybe she wasn't. Whoever she was writing about, though, deserves to feel the way they feel. In my case, my Grinchiness isn't so much about not being able to buy my kids LOTS and LOTS of stuff. Sure, there's a little part of me that wishes I could go out and stuff carts full of goodies for my kids, but for the most part, this season makes me sad because it reminds me of all that my kids have lost. The traditions, the memories, the structure..it's all gone. And it bums me out.
The reason for the season? Yes. Yes, my dear old friend, I'm fully aware of that reason. I'm not one to cram my religion down anyone's throat. I'm not even one to drop my beliefs in everyday conversation. But I go to church. I volunteer my time to teach young people of my faith all about God and Jesus and the Bible and everything else all churchy like that. I get it. December 25th is the day Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. It's also the day my Jewish friends eat Chinese and see movies.
Maybe my old friend's post wasn't about me. Maybe it was someone else in her life, another woman who is feeling frustrated because she can't meet the expectations of the season, real or imagined, and that makes her feel crappy.
Here's the funny part of this story: You know when I saw this post? I saw it this morning, after I had dropped William off at school. After I dropped him off, I went to the food shelf. I've mentioned the food shelf a couple of times now (just the other day, I believe) but haven't gone into too much detail about it. I'll do that, soon (working title: "Adventures in Foodshelving" or "My Mom Went to the Food Shelf and all I got was this Lousy T-shirt and some mac & cheese"). I'm not embarrassed about it. I don't care who knows. There's a food shelf about 2 blocks away from my house. I used to donate food and clothes there, a lifetime ago. And now, I sometimes get food there. That's life. It's not as awful as you'd imagine it to be...in fact, once you get past the initial horror it's not unpleasant. But we'll dish about that later.
Today I went because we're short on food. I picked out a cart full of soup, pasta, tuna, cans of green beans and corn. They have a freezer where you can pick out as much bread as you want. Have I ever mentioned the fact that I make legendary French toast? I do. So I made sure to grab two loaves of French bread. I think I gasped when I saw that they had milk there today. Gallons. It expires in three days, but you know what? It'll be gone in two.
I hurried through, because I had to be at work a bit before noon. I "checked out", where the volunteers go through your cart, separate the hygiene products and the bread and the produce from everything else (today I got to sit there and listen while two kindly older women bickered about whether or not the jug of syrup I had was considered a condiment or a baking product. One of them finally said, "Oh it's Christmas time. Give it to her." I have no shame left...not a freaking drop.). Got everything boxed and bagged up, and left my cart by the back door so I could go get my truck and move it closer to make loading it up easier.
When I moved my truck, one of the food shelf delivery vans had pulled up next to the backdoor. No biggie, I thought, and parked a little ways away. I walked back to the building, grabbed my cart and proceeded to load up.
Everything loaded up, I walked my cart back to the building, and almost bumped into the man who had been driving the van. "Oh, I'm sorry, young lady. I think I may have taken your spot! I didn't mean to do that." I looked up, and immediately recognized him.
He goes to my church. He and his wife had a son named Nick. Nick died in a car accident a few years ago, he was a senior in college and was heading back to school after coming home for a weekend visit. This man and his wife lost their boy Nick, lost him in the blink of an eye.
This man and his wife have honored their son in many ways. One of the ways they do so is to offer scholarships to our church summer camp every year.
This past summer, Henry and William went to camp. They went there thanks to this man and his wife and the scholarships they offered in the name of their son Nick. There was no way in hell I could have scraped up the money for them to go, not in my wildest dreams. I managed to come up with the down payments, but when it came time to pony up the rest, I had nothing. "No problem" the people at my church said. "We have a couple of very generous scholarships for Henry and William. No kid should be denied camp because of financial hardship."
When you get the scholarships, the church encourages you to write thank you notes to the donors. I have the thank yous, have had them for almost five months. Sitting there, on my desk, ready to go. I never sent them.
This man and his wife came to our confirmation night a few weeks ago. They talked about their son, talked about how it felt to lose a child, talked about what they've done to deal with their grief. I wanted to stop, after their talk, and thank them, but I had my group of girls with me and I was sure that I'd start sobbing the second I attempted to talk to them.
Sobbing like I did this morning, in the rain, in a food shelf parking lot. "You go to my church, sir" I began. And I told him everything. About my boys, about the scholarships, the thank you notes, the talk at church. I cried, ugly cries I'm sure, as I apologized to him for not giving him and his wife a proper thank you. "I'm sorry" I stammered out. "I'm so sorry."
This man hugged me. He hugged me tight, and as his face pressed near my ear he said "It's okay. Thank you for saying something." We broke from the hug and he held my shoulders and looked at me and said, "We suffered a horrible tragedy, but look at what has happened...your boys went to camp. You felt Nick's love. This is God working through all of us. This is God's love in action."
When I got home, I still had tears on my cheeks. I put the perishables away and quickly checked my emails before heading out to work. I saw the status of my old friend, and I shook my head.
I know the reason for the season. I know it well. I felt it, today, in a cold wet parking lot. I felt it in the embrace of a man who has lived through a parent's worst nightmare. I felt it as I told him about how my boys still talk about that week at camp and how grateful, how deeply grateful I am, and always will be, for this gift.
So yeah...I know the reason for the season. And for you, my old friend, and anyone else up there on a pretty, shiny pedestal of judgment and assumption...it's not just this season.
It's the reason for every season. I know it, my kids know it...that wonderful man and his equally wonderful wife know it.
But you, my old friend. Do you?