I started reading Christmas stories to groups when I was only 5 years old. I guess I’ve always had a knack for storytelling because as I stood before my brother’s 3rd grade class and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, I didn’t realize that the book was upside down. Although my telling of Clement Clarke Moore’s story was not verbatim, nonetheless, its spirit and meaning were very much alive. Because, you see, the spirit of Christmas resides in the hearts and minds of children; written words will never express the true meaning of Christmas that lives within us.
As a child I can remember our family going to the hospital cafeteria so that we could eat Christmas dinner with my mom when she was at work. Therefore, I am confident that I have had more holiday meals in a hospital than I have at home. That experience gives me an eccentric feeling of belonging to something that is in constant motion—never pausing or wavering from caring, giving, or helping another who is a little less fortunate.
As an adult I have felt the pain of seeing a mother dying of cancer on Christmas day as her 5-year-old-son struggles to understand what dying means. Then that same little boy returns on Valentine’s Day bearing bags of candy hearts along with crayon messages of what nurses mean to him. During those times, I understand what nursing is and the impact we have on another life during moments of weakness when one’s chin quivers under the weight of his world. I will never forget that somber day as I watched a little boy walk hand in hand with his father after their lives were changed forevermore. My drive home that day was filled with dark images flashing through my mind as I had become silent and numb in search of the Joy of Christmas.
I realize that happiness and joy does not come elaborately wrapped and placed under a tree, but instead, comes from the heart and in a moment when we connect with what is really important in life. The gift of health is so fragile and precious, and yet most people take it for granted. The loss of health doesn’t affect just the afflicted; it stirs many emotions and impacts many lives for generations to come. For me, the meaning of Christmas is about a smile, a chuckle in one’s heart, the warmth of family, and being healthy. Take the time this holiday season to be kind to one another, to smile, to laugh, and to exchange good tidings.
Believe in the wonder, delight in the magic. Merry Christmas!
Howard Baker, RN BSN
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