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Our Christmas Visit
Photo: Loretta Humble
Our walk took us through, then out of, our neighborhood. Soon we were strolling past store windows twinkling with lights, catching strains of carols from occasional passing cars. We exchanged glances as though somehow we needed to make the evening special. Our daughters and son could not get home until after Christmas, so we wanted to enhance the holiday somehow, if possible.

A sign creaked in the breeze in front of an old brick mansion that had been converted into a nursing home. The large front window displayed a tall, lighted tree. I squeezed Dave’s gloved hand. “At least we have each other. Some of those residents probably don’t have anyone to visit them this Christmas.”

Dave returned my squeeze. “Let’s see if we can go into this nursing home and visit residents who have no visitors.”

“An impulsive idea,” I replied, “but let’s go!”

A friendly-faced woman answered the doorbell. We told her why we were there, and with obvious delight, she directed us to the residents she though might be alone. We met Mike in the first room on our list. “Merry Christmas!” Dave said. “We’re here to chat a bit.”

Mike’s dark eyes brightened. He told us he was born in 1918 and he’d worked all over the country. His wife had died years before. “She loved Christmas so much, especially being at church. We didn’t have much money, but we made do.”

As we said goodbye to Mike, he reached for a nostalgia magazine by his bed. “Here, want to read this? I’m through with it. It’ll be sort of my Christmas gift to you. I hope you enjoy it. It has some stories about old-time Christmases that made me feel good.”

We greeted 83-year-old Helen in her room, and she beamed. “You could be my kin, but they live far away. I’m going to pretend you’re my family, OK?”

Residents Stood in the Doorway to Listen

I had never been in a choir, but I sang “Joy to the World” for her as Dave joined me. Several residents came and stood in the open doorway to listen to us. When we finished, their eyes were bright, and they clapped. It didn’t matter to them that we were untrained vocalists.

We chatted with other residents before we left. The warmth from their hugs and fervent thank-you’s lingered as we passed through the front door.

At home I said, “There’s more to this evening’s story, but I couldn’t tell you right away. I had such a lump in my throat I was afraid I would break down and cry in front of everyone.”

“Did something happen when that lady with the silver-white hair tied with a blue ribbon invited you into her room?” he asked perceptively.

“Yes.” I held out my hand. “Look.” Dave gazed at the blue satin ribbon in my palm.

“That lady said she’d be so glad if I’d take the ribbon as her present to me.” I said. “And she’d told me earlier that she’d received two in a card from her friend. She wanted me to have one.”

We exchanged smiles about the joy we’d received from our impulsive visit. We had expected nothing in return except inner peace, but the residents had responded with their smiles, thanks, a magazine, and ribbon. I wanted to go back and return the ribbon, but Dave said I would take away her joy in giving.

I nodded. We sat by our tree, turned on the tape of “Silent Night,” and felt we had experienced a homey Christmas away from home. And we could hardly wait to tell our family when they arrived a few days later!

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By Audrey Carli. Reprinted with permission from Signs of the Times December 2006. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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