Tonight, on Christmas Eve night, I'm thinking a lot about you & how much I love you. A part of me wishes I could run out to the stores and by you all sorts of things — crafts, puzzles, games, toys. But I can't.
You see, I won't be that auntie that showers you with material goods because I have seen enough of the world to know that the most special things you will ever treasure will be not be found online or in stores. I want to be the kind of auntie you can run to and ask questions of, build forts with, eat lots of ice cream with and make tons of memories with. I want to be that auntie you can look at and say: "She's doing her best to love the people around her."
Tonight the sky is dark. The stars are veiled behind a bank of clouds, and reminds me of how dark the world is for so many people. You know the Christmas story: how Mary and Joseph were forced to go to a faraway place while Mary was pregnant (just like Mommy is now), to do things some very cruel people were making everybody do. It was cold, dark and stinky. Even if animals in a stable were warm, they peed and pooped everywhere.
When I was in Romania, I met and got to know some kids known as "The Sewer Children". They were called that because they had nowhere else to live but underground by Bucharest's hot water pipes. The pipes helped them stay warm in winter, or else they would freeze to death above ground. These kids sometimes had 1 meal during a day, and it was ususally something they found in a dumpster or leftovers thrown to them by tourists. An Xbox would have meant nothing to them. What they wanted was warmth… and food.
When I was in Peru, I met some villagers high in the Andes Mountains. They had no running water, no running sewer, and often carried goods by alpaca or llama — kind of like Mary and Joseph using a donkey. Sometimes they would hang their heads when people, like me, came through on a bus or a car. But most of the time… mostly… they were proud of their simple way of life. They knew that life was fragile and precious, and took great delight in nights of singing together, eating and drinking around campfires, and celebrating important festivals… like Jesus' birthday. Their Christmas meal would be made of rice and beans, but they would laugh together just like we do… share together just like we do… and worship together just like we do.
Remember, my children: just because someone doesn't have all the "21rst century stuff" we have, doesn't mean their way of life is any less, or that they are any less, or that they have any less to offer the world. You must know that poverty is rampant around the globe, but never look down on those who struggle with it. And never confuse poverty and simplicity. You will learn these things as you grow. What the Moche People want is to be treated as equals — a gift as precious as warmth.
When I was in the Philippines, I met young women bought and sold for a few pesoes to please men. Some were pregnant, like Mary was, and suffered the shame of carrying a child without being married. It is here I would love to model for you compassion: when the world condemns someone, be the people who refuse to throw stones. Be the people who reach across the table and take hands in love. What these girls want more than anything is to be accepted and loved… not shunned or left alone.
Some of the children were forced to work in factories that make your toys… your games… your puzzles… your clothes… your video games… so many things in our lives that we use everyday are made by people forced to work without pay — of all ages. My prayer is that you would understand these cycles one day, and then take action to not only break them but to build new cycles that would humanize those we — in North America — have oppressed. What these people want is freedom — freedom to be with their families, to provide for one another, to walk in the free air instead of being chained inside mills, and to run and play just as you do.
Here where we live in Alberta, you know that it gets cold in the winter — very cold. Without a place to go, people can die in this weather. You will also learn not to be fooled by our "rich" culture: people still go hungry, people still don't have electricity (or sometimes they do, but if they can't pay the bills the lights go out), people don't have enough for cars or bus passes or school fees. But we keep telling each other that MORE TOYS is BETTER!
But it's not.
It never will be.
It might feel like it in the moment, my dear ones, but nothing could be further from the truth. The world sees toys as a way to fill emptiness, to show strength or wealth, but it's not true. Hold onto this. Believe this. Be thankful for the loving souls who do give to you now and then, but learn that warmth… empathy… compassion… acceptance… freedom… shelter… food… family and love — above all, love — are the treasures that will last forever.
One last thing Cubbie, Dodger and Wee One: the world is full of oppression and poverty and brokenness. There are so many — beyond count — who have no food, no clean water, no shelter, no freedom, no acceptance, no family… and no love.
Instead of comparing how good your life is to theirs, listen to the voice of Jesus, crying as a baby in a smelly, poopy manger: "I call you, Ethan, Oliver and Wee One, to live as I lived. Follow me. With every breath you take, live to end poverty… trafficking… homelessness… brokenness. Show the world My love, my Love without end. This is My kingdom. This is why I am here with you."
So when Christmas Day comes around and there aren't big shiny presents under the tree from me, smile. Smile because I want to be that auntie who knows the deeper treasures of God: Jesus being the very first.
Merry Christmas, darlings. I love you with all I am.