We all gathered in a downstairs living room, warm and cozy it was, bellies full of deliciousness. Sitting, each in our chair or couch and waited for what was to begin. Some of us were anxious, there were those who were getting drowsy from over eating wanted to go first before sleep overtook them, others were just patient, calm. All were in expectation for the next phase. We were celebrating Christmas as a family, a community of coworkers. This celebration happens each year, something to look forward to, not for the wonderful food, the time away from the busy hustle of answering phones, working on our projects or going through our routine motions, but for this exact moment. No, we do not play secret santa, white elephant or any other typical gift exchange. We celebrate each other. We have all prepared something exhorting, encouraging and affirming. We write these things down and on this special occasion, in this moment we begin to express these words to each other. However, who will begin?
So here we wait, wondering who goes first, the primer for this time. Silence, a pause and a prayer. Finally it was decided that the person with the closest birthday should begin. Some sighed a relief, others, who’s stomachs where causing a state of lethargy, were waking themselves to pay attention. A quick reference to my internal calendar gave me the realization that my birthday was next week. Oh the joy of being first. It wasn’t that I did not want to participate in this adventure, this privilege, but I get supremely nervous. Immediately my palms began to sweat. I reached into my bag and pulled out what I had, what I prepared. I unfolded the papers and drew a deep breath.
“I’m nervous.” I said in a funny voice, to make others laugh and to ease my nerves. It half worked, some laughed, my nerves remained, grew.
My hands shook like leaves in the prevailing winds; a proverbial chill went up my spine. I began and the silence in the room was stifling, but I held on and pursued my reading. The further I went down the page my now cold fingers held fast to the papers to keep them steady. Each sentence I read was off track with my breathing and I’m sure it was hard to understand. As I reached the end of my writings, my affirmation I felt relief flow over me. I believed what I had written had sunk in to the person I was reading it to. I finished. Slowly I pried my eyes form the trembling papers, I looked up and saw her smile, small tears in her eyes, success. I had conveyed what was in my heart, despite my nerves, despite my shaking voice and hands, the sweaty palms and the broken breaths.
We went around, one after the next, reading and finding our voice. We laughed, smiled, tears fell, all was peaceful, grand. Everyone read with grace and full of heart. Each person was read to, hugged and loved. This time is special, this time is needed.
As I watched and listened to my friends I realized I am a part of something unique, something more than myself and this season of good cheer. A smile filled with love and happiness was a permanent feature on my face. Eyes teary at times with each word spoken, this is good.
Far too soon it was time for me to be read to, to be wrapped with words of love and encouragement. My nerves struck once more upon my body, my insides. I often do not accept nor believe I am worthy of such things. This stems from some reasons known and unknown; it is a constant struggle to accept them. Today, in this time, I will try.
She spoke so calmly, so directly, my coworker and my friend. She had a poem she had written, just for me. She began. Words flowed from her lips that blew over me and calmed me. Love emanated from them, kindness fell on my ears and melted my heart. My eyes misty, the same plastered smile of joy was a signal to all that I was more than touched, I felt love and at home. She finished and I hugged her and thanked her from my deepest point.
These experiences happened to all of us that day. We all realized we were loved, are all part of a true family that cares more for us than even we ourselves do. Those filled with anxiety were at peace, those with full bellies stayed awake not wanting to miss a word and those already at peace were added joy.
As the time ended I looked around the room once more, memorizing each face, each expression. I do not want to leave these coworkers, these friends, my family. A slight sadness began to creep in with the realization that this time would not come again till the next celebration of this season, that the love felt this day was to be prolonged. I walked up the stairs to go and I felt my colossal smile had begun to fade, to turn into my normal everyday expression, which is a cross between a smile and contemplative, but it stopped short. My mind reminded me of something good, something wonderful. We have this celebration not just during this time, but we have the opportunity, the privilege to share, to encourage, to love every week, every day. Not just at regular subscribed times, but during all hours of the day. We can do these things whenever we desire, not just during special occasions. My gigantic smile returned; my heart rang out with joy once more. Thank you God for this, for all of them.
– Josh Jones