Plate 21 is one of those coffee shops one would expect to find in the arts district of a large metropolitan area. There we sat sipping hot chai tea on a late fall, damp, cold Toledo day.  

Our good friend was visiting with my wife and me as we caught up on numerous aspects of each others’ lives. This is a place we enjoy breaking away to, especially with someone so special. As we laughed together and simply shared the experiences of living, the conversation drifted into the more serious.
Our friend is a single mother with two adopted children. The story of her journey is not only amazing, but a testimony to what the Lord can do in the life of someone who is yielded to him. 

Shifting one's view, in this case from sea level to a mountaintop, can drastically change the way we see things.

Shifting one’s view, in this case from sea level to a mountaintop, can drastically change the way we see things.

As she shared with us the celebration of how her family is doing as they have conquered a number of transitions, the conversation shifted to Christmas. 

We had not known some of the details of their first Christmas together, but as she shared about her Haitian daughter’s experience that first year I was caught off guard. 

This child had grown up in poverty, had experienced extreme loss in the earthquake that rocked the nation, and also was living in an orphanage — because her biological mother cared so much for her that she knew she could not provide for her needs.

As this child observed the numerous gifts given to the children here in the United States, she asked her mother, “Mom, why is it that  Santa loves the children in the United States more than the children of Haiti?” 

When our friend asked her daughter why she believed that to be true, she said, “Because he brings them more gifts when they already have so much.” 

WOW, how convicting … an assessment of a situation that could only be made by someone outside the circle of an event. What a profound statement … the degree of which this child was not even aware.

This daughter is a practical helper, a hard worker, a compassionate soul … someone more interested in others than herself and someone who would give what she had to you if it would make your life better. 

Did she naively and unashamedly confront us for the way we use our resources, while some people both here and abroad can barely feed their family?  Did she also have something to say about the outcome of over-gratifying our children (i.e., that they may not see the world as she did)?

Her assessment of our Christmas experience reminded me of a time I had been visiting a city on a mission trip. 

After a week there I was now viewing it from a mountaintop. The new outlook was much different than my first week there.

Sometimes in life, the way one regards something can shift such that it alters the experience forever. A different point of view drastically changes how we see some things.

Shifting one's view, in this case from sea level to a mountaintop, can drastically change the way we see things.

Shifting one’s view, in this case from sea level to a mountaintop, can drastically change the way we see things.

Such was my response to this insightful child! My wife and I had already been trying to morph our own Christmas experience with our grandchildren into something more “other” centered. 

But after I heard this quote from the child who once had nothing (except the things in life that count) it caused great pause.

Living in a nation of entitlement, with many people more focused on themselves than others, with compassion a byword that is seldom practiced, and empathy often absent in relationships with others, I wondered if there is something we could learn from this wise young Haitian. 

Perhaps she understands the Gospel of Jesus better than those of us here in the comfort of the land of the Stars and Stripes.

Have we been lulled into a place of complacency with the gift of prosperity? Do we live in a material existence that does not consider the consequences of that lifestyle? 

I wondered … what are we teaching our children? I want my grandchildren to have the values and kind heart of this beautiful, kind, smiley-eyed Haitian treasure. I think she can teach us a lot!

No Comments

  1. Cheri Holdridge

    Thanks for your post and for the telling story from the child from Haiti.
    Our family has changed our Christmas habits in recent years thanks to the influence of a fellow pastor, Rev. Mike Slaughter. He has written a book called “Christmas is Not Your Birthday.” He encourages us to let our friends give us gifts on our birthday, but on Jesus’ birthday to honor him. At Mike’s Church, Ginghamsburg United Methodist, near Dayton, they raise about a $1 million a year with their Christmas offering for work in Darfur doing hunger relief and building schools. He encourages his folks to spend less on Christmas and to give an equal amount to the church Christmas offering as what they spend on Christmas for their friends and family. At my church here in Toledo, The Village, we have made the same challenge and our offering is for an orphanage in Zimbabwe and for our Village Kids ministry. My kids understand that our family gives an equal amount to this Christmas offering as what we spend on gifts. I think my children, ages 13 and 10 feel good about having fewer gifts at home, so we can help others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.