What a GREAT Christmas. I can honestly say that. While of course it has been out of the norm (eating way too much, spending time with family/ close friends, wearing long underwear, cuddling with my dog by the fire, crazy present exchanges beating my family in cards... etc etc..)- it has been such a wonderful and joyous Christmas.
This weekend has been full of warm-hearted invitations to various family’s houses, church friends and even potlucks. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of hospitality I have been shown by so many here in Arusha, and I am so thankful for that, if you know anyone wherever you are that will be alone for Christmas, take this time to think about what it would feel like to be that person, maybe it’s a perfect opportunity to reach out and really make a difference – because I assure you, it really does.
Anywho, being 80-some degrees however... it didn’t quite feel like Christmas to me... that is- - until the Carols by Candlelight service here. I was able to participate in a church choral service here in Arusha where we sang many Christmas carols (I think I will end with my favorite verse of my favorite Christmas hymn - In the Bleak Mid-Winter) - - This service just made it feel like home, and filled me with such an amazing Christmas joy- which I hope to try and encompass year-round, because- shouldn’t Christmas joy really be a year round thing anyways? < I’ve decided it should :- )> Anyways it was just a great service and a great reminder- I felt like a small child hearing the Christmas story for the first time—even though I’ve heard it so many times because of how happy it made me, it was also just a HUGE reminder of the love story this story, the story of Jesus’ birth is for each and all of us : -) Now that’s something to be joyful about.
Christmas Eve here was fun too, in the evening, my housemate Brian and a medical student from Germany came over, we made homemade pizzas, guacamole and watched.. get ready... my favorite Christmas special, Rudolph.
Then today, on Christmas I woke up to some amazing acts of kindness, surprise gifts from people including kitenges (jenny! ;-) and even... a BICYCLE! My task force is giving me money to buy myself a bicycle for traveling around in my village, I’m super excited about that, hooray! That’s right, I woke up on Christmas morning to a Bike! ☺ After a great church service some of my friends and I did perhaps the most meaningful thing I have ever done on Christmas. We went to the Plaster House.
I have mentioned Plaster House before, but it is a children’s home in Arusha for children from around Tanzania to recover in after they have had corrective orthopaedic surgery, plastic surgery or neurosurgery for a disability http://www.plasterhouse.org/ check out the website, if you have any desire to give to an organization this holiday season, give a gift to the plaster house, it's a wonderful place and they're raising funds to build a bigger house!! ;-) Myself and five of my medical friends went with lots of cookies and two cakes. We got there right after the children had eaten, in time for them to get their presents. Oh. My. Goodness. These children were instructed that they would each get a bag of goodies, in which they had to keep closed until all 30-ish of them had their presents, then altogether they would open them. This would never have worked in the US, but here the children got their presents, held them silently and patiently waiting for everyone to have theirs, before they were given permission to open them. Wow. Amazing. Then they opened up gifts of various toys, small balls, stuffed animals, hot wheels oh and tooth brushes soap etc etc (which they were also pumped about). It was simply amazing.
We stayed and played with the children for a few hours, it was SO much fun playing with and interacting with the kids (aged probably 2-18 about..) So. Much Fun and Joy! Some of these children have deformities, that may cause them to be self-conscious, but here at plaster house all children are equal- included, and treated as equal it’s amazing. Also, one small boy maybe 6-7 picked up some car wheels of a broken toy, I half expected him to cry, be angry – like most kids would be.. but he picked it up and looked at me with the biggest (two front teeth missing) smile ever- so full of happiness. Something I hope has found all of you this Christmas, it sure has found me.
I guess what I think I’ve learned this Christmas is; Sometimes God shows us amazing joy- at times we don’t always expect it, and many times we need to be mindful in all circumstances to do our best be joyful, even when handed broken car wheels. I think also I was shown how wonderful it is to have others share joy with you maybe when you really need it, which you never know when someone could really need some joy in their lives so let’s just spread it around for fun... all year round.
So no, I didn’t have my family, nor my closest friends, I didn’t have my family traditions, waaay too many Christmas cookies, Christmas lights everywhere, presents under a tree, yet I had one of the most joyous Christmas’ ever. Thank you to all of you who spread joy to me this Christmas, there are too many to name.
Much Love and a Merry Christmas to you all,
Let’s try to make Christmas joy ever-present in our lives and those we meet, all year round.
“What Can I Give Him, Poor As I Am
If I Were A Shepherd, I Would Bring A Lamb
If I Were A Wiseman, I Would Do My Part
Yet What I Can I Give Him, Give My Heart “