I remember the first Christmas after my mom died. I was thirteen and suddenly my life was chaos. The tradition at the Children’s home I moved into that year was to cook a grand meal where all the supporters came and the headmaster told all of us little children to “smile real big so that people will continue to send money, otherwise we won’t eat.”
That memory is so vivid in my mind. Even as a young girl I knew that something was wrong with that picture. How could I smile? How could I do anything but stay in my hard, little cot and sob?
It has taken decades for Christ to heal me enough to be able to rejoice in what Christmas means. I now know that I must extend the same grace and patience to others who have experienced trauma in their lives.
For the women we serve at Amirah, holidays are one of the most difficult times in their life. Everyone around them is humming holiday songs; there’s twinkly lights glimmering up and down the streets. People exclaim “Merry Christmas!” If you appear sad, people say “Cheer up! It’s Christmas!”
If only it was that simple.
Most of the women I work with have told me horrifying events that have happened to them around the holidays. Horrors we cannot fathom. In addition, the holidays remind them that we should be going home, to visit family. What happens to those who don’t have a home? What happens to those whose parents sold them for drugs at the age of 10?
This Christmas I challenge all of us to be mindful of our own blessings and lift up in prayer those who are less fortunate. I ask that we all intentionally give grace and patience to those who are suffering. Don’t expect them to be cheerful - just walk alongside them. This Christmas season I reflect on the Proverb: “One who sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound” (Proverbs 25:20 NIV).
This is the third post in a series on Trauma & the Holidays.