Among those on the street, the longing for family intensifies during the Christmas season.
Richard told me that whenever he thinks about Christmas, bad memories flood back and remembrances of a failed marriage reemerge. The loneliness becomes acute during the holidays, even to this day. “When I think of Christmas I want to cry,” he said. His usually happy-go-lucky face clouds over in a brief, sombre moment. Richard spends Christmas alone, accompanied by ghosts of the past, and self-imposes a state of oblivion to salvage a lonely heart.
Josh and Melanie also think of family during Christmas. Melanie remembers spending it with her daughter, but today, she is too ashamed of her living circumstances to even call her, let alone spend the Christmas season together. Melanie’s accommodations include a space under a bridge with Josh, and while kept neatly as possible, is not conducive for holiday entertaining. Melanie will spend her Christmas with Josh; her daughter and grandchildren will be present in her mind, and her isolation from family will continue.
Ron remembers the large family gatherings during Christmas when he was younger and a little more innocent. These gatherings have gained special, symbolic significance as he makes steps to reconcile with his family, and reconcile his past with the harsh reality of his own homelessness. Being far away from his family, he told me he now realizes how much he took them for granted, how missed they are, and how their fellowship filled the loneliness felt during the holidays.
Christmas ultimately reminds me of the loneliness of God. With the joyous birth of the Messiah, a Father and His only Son, His most loved One, were apart for 33 years. We ignore the acute longing He must have felt when that baby entered this world, knowing what lay ahead. The lonely in the world, like Richard, Melanie, and Ron, must be tightly embraced and comforted by God during the holidays, for He Himself knew what it was to be apart from a loved one.
In His loneliness, God radiates His intense love and passion He has for us all. His longing for us made His loneliness justified, and the birth of Christ epitomizes this love. In His gift to woo all of our hearts, in the memorandum attached to the ribbon of the gift He wrote, “Now you know love’s secret, that to receive love it must be given with no thought of its return. To love for fulfillment, satisfaction, or pride is no love. Love is a gift on which no return is demanded. Now you know that to love unselfishly is its own reward. And even should love not be returned it is not lost, for love not reciprocated will flow back to you and soften and purify your heart.” (Og Mandino)
His precious loneliness and love, all packaged in one gift with each of our names on it.
Street Outreach Worker