Weekly Sabbath Survey
A Christmas Story — 12-14-13
Years ago, in my hometown of Del Rio, Texas (yes, it really is a real town!), I was a full time Mom and leader in a small church. I cooked and cleaned, did Mom’s Taxi Service for kids who didn’t drive yet — the life of a busy young family. We lived in the country with chickens, 4-H sheep, and Appaloosa horses. We rode for pleasure, went to kid rodeos, and once a year (in February!) we spent three days on an annual trial ride over the countryside, camping each night, eating from the chuck wagon around the fire, under the stars. We had a real blast. Great memories. (I was a real cowgirl in those days!)
I was young and running full steam until one day, I wasn’t. I was weeping at times from exhaustion and sometimes had to have help to get up the stairs at the end of the day. I was beginning to have health problems that were eventually identified as Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue and other issues, but we had no idea what it was then. I was not anemic or low BP, so we decided I had too much on my plate and my husband hired a Mexican woman to come once a week to help me. Her name was Maria. My name was Senora. She was a widow, older than me, had a grown and married daughter, but was left alone to raise two sons about the age of my boys. She rode the bus from Mexico each day to clean for someone and then rode back home. I picked her up at the bus station downtown each Tuesday after I took the kids to school, then dropped her off when I came back to town to get them in the afternoon. Maria was a sweet little woman, belonged to a Pentecostal Church in Mexico. She was a hard worker. She sang choruses and hymns in Spanish as she worked. Some of the songs I knew from the tune. She was a blessing. She challenged me to remember Spanish words I had forgotten from not using them,
Eventually she moved to Del Rio, got her boys in our school where they learned English. They lived in a small house across the street from her brother and his family. The year of this story, the last Christmas Maria worked for us before she moved away, she got sick in early December and missed several days of work. I always gave her a bonus, which I did that last Tuesday before Christmas. But after I took her home, I began to think about how much money she lost when she was sick. I wondered if she had anything for her kids’ Christmas. I talked to my husband about it and we decided to help more. I had only a little time to do it, but we had it all together the day before Christmas Eve. My boys helped me wrap and tag the gifts for each one, and we all went to deliver take it to them. We got to her house and knocked but there was no one home. I tried the door and it opened. I called out. No answer.
I went across the street and see if they might be over there. The woman I assumed was her sister in law spoke English and told me she didn’t know where they were, but that they would probably be home soon because they were walking and would want to get home before dark. I told her what we were doing, leaving gifts for them, and she nodded and smiled. So, the boys and I took our treasures into Maria’s little house. It was clean (no surprise there) with a true Charlie Brown Christmas tree on a table in the corner. Decorations were made from colored paper. There were no gifts in sight. The fridge was working on “bare.” I put into it, two chickens, a package of hamburger meat, a gallon of milk, a big block of cheese, and other cold items. We left sacks of flour, corn meal, sugar, rice, pinto beans; some luxury items like candy, bananas, roasted peanuts, and fruit cocktail that I knew the boys loved. All this on the kitchen table. We piled all the gifts on the couch. We felt very satisfied that our surprise would be a huge success. My oldest boy asked me how they would know who did this. I told him, it didn’t matter that they know who, just that someone cares about them. We said a quick prayer for blessing on this little family, and left.
We hadn’t been home but a few minutes when the phone rang. I answered and nobody said a word. I said, “Hello” again. Still no answer. Then I heard a sound like a little whimper. I said, “Maria, es usted?” And I heard a loud wail saying “Oh, Senora!” then sobbing. “Muchas gracias, Senora! Gloria a Dios, Oh, Senora, Senora,” and more Spanish that got faster and much harder to understand with the crying. I started sobbing myself. The boys had figured out who it was and were standing by me, all of us putting our ears to the phone listening to this humble saint of God thank Him and us over and over for what was such a small thing for our family to do. I finally managed to say in probably horrible Spanish, knowing she would understand, “Es toda en de nombre Jesus (Hay -soos). (All in the name of Jesus). Toda por El Senor ” (all for the Lord.) My boys and I shouted into the phone “Feliz Navidad, Maria, y muchachos!” (Merry Christmas Maria and boys!) And they shouted it back to us.
It’s the BEST Christmas present we ever gave ourselves. My husband cried when we told him all about it. I still cry when myself when I think about it.
Charlene Reams Manning