Tonight I met a dear English lady who, by our estimates, is well into her eighties.  Her voice was soft (I think she said because of a health condition) but her mind was sharp. (HAHA...sharper than mine!!)
She was truly a joy to meet...especially for me.

When my family was homeless (during my 14th spring/summer) we began that period of time in tents in a campground, then in two rooms in a motel, (that was quite the experience with seven children, two mothers, a momma dog and her seven puppies!).  When we had to pare down expenses and all live in one motel room, the stress of the situation became too much, and one mother and her four children left to go back east.  My mother and her three were now alone in a large city in the Midwest but now doors were opening that had been closed when we were such a large family.  We spent time the rest of that summer at a variety of places before finally moving into our own home in August of 1984.  Part of that summer was spent at The Shelter run by Catholic Charities in Omaha, NE.  That was a blessed place for us, with the only bad memory being of having to give up the dogs.  That was heartbreaking but there was no other option for us.  Before we ended up in the Shelter, though, we maxed out our time at a homeless shelter run by the Salvation Army.  I do not have fond memories of that place.  The lady in the reception office was kind, I do remember...and also one of the uniformed ladies had a kind face.  Other than that, we were dealt with severely much of the time.  It was a tearing down time for us emotionally.  Mom was stressed (of course) at the situation, my brother was upset about many things and the two of them fought.  He was 13yrs old and so very confused about everything on top of the normal hormonal changes that go on at that time of life for a young man.  Life was definitely not pretty.  I have wondered how I will handle this part of my story since I did recognize some lingering bitterness at being treated like we were no more than cattle at that place.  However, the lady I met tonight has helped me let go of some of the bitterness I carried toward the S.A.  She had served in the Salvation Army during the Second World War and continued to serve many years...until she married in her thirties.  Hearing the history of the organization from her was enlightening for me...and heartwarming.  More than that, the love of Christ that shone through this dear woman's face was still bright and I realized I was wrong to judge an entire organization because of the behavior of a few...

I am so very thankful for such a valuable gift...and so very thankful that, for many, this day marks a celebration of the birth of Christ...the reason we have hope.  Without hope, hearts die.  God is so very gracious to see to all our needs...even before we know them ourselves.  I had no idea how deep this bitterness from so long ago had implanted itself into my heart.  I am thankful for the Great Physician who is so lovingly and gently paring away all that would otherwise hinder my walk with Him.

Humbled once again...

~~Shirley 
photo by: Shirley/England/December 2005
An Unexpected Christmas Gift
originally written 25 Dec 05
posted on 30 Dec 05
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