The fourth and final week of advent begins on the Sunday before Christmas. Depending on where in the week Christmas falls, the fourth week can be the shortest week of all. This year it was as long as it could possibly be – a full week to reflect on the theme of love – made (seemingly) longer by the “gift” of snow received at the very beginning of the week. After three other city-paralyzing snow storms in just a two-week period, the snow was really starting to pile up…
…and when life gives you snow, on top of snow, on top of snow… you shovel. We headed out on that snowy Monday morning with shovels in hand to discover another great gift of snow: neighbours. Six families from our tiny cul-de-sac came out in force to work together that morning, including one dad who was just moving in that very day. Really.
I shovelled my heart out, starting in on one neighbour’s driveway while he helped to fix the snow blower of another. Across the street a dad worked to clear the outdoor ice rink he has built for the kids to play on, and another friend pitched in for hours to clear the common areas even though he his own driveway was not affected. Neighbours.
“Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
Where would we be without the kindness of neighbours? The simple gestures, the unplanned acts, the selfless thoughtfulness that happens every day in tiny unseen ways – that is real love. The easiest way to have love, the greatest way to give love, the only way to create love is with kindness. Shovelling for hours, thinking these thoughts, I laughed a little bit to myself at a connection that was foreshadowing at its finest. This year, for our annual Christmas card, Mr. Martini selected this quote:
“Kindness is like snow: it beautifies everything it covers.” (Kahlil Gibran)
Those of you who live locally and have been shovelling out there just as much may not be laughing, but in a very real way the snow (and the many littles kindnesses that it sparked) has brought some of us together. Kindness is love, and in the week before Christmas I saw it flourish all around me in many little ways. Now that Christmas has come and gone (ushered out on Boxing Day with another snowfall) I am still thinking about the love and kindness that has meant a great deal to me this year. Through all of the challenges and loss there has been kindness, and that has made all the difference…
“There are three things in human life that are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” (Henry James)
(I have read that Henry James spoke these words in response to a question from his brother William’s son, but my own son tells me that this quote is from Mother Teresa… thoughts?)
Love and kindness are discussed at length here at the Martini house, and often philosophically, as Miss G. approaches the “Age of Enlightenment”. She asks insightful and deeply empathetic questions about human relationships and our place in the world, and challenges the adults around her especially to be better people every day. In response to her deep and thoughtful questions, she received this letter from a guest in our house on Christmas Eve:
“Love is very important to me, to my work, and most of all to our world. This love, in giving and sharing, has created a special kind of magic that indeed is very real. It comes from the hearts of people who love and care for others, and casts a glow in the world wherever it is needed most. When people feel the love of Christmas magic at work in their lives they are able to do better for themselves and for others.” (Mr. C.)
Love. It is the simplest and purest way to express the best of our own self, and to care for others at their most human. And really, it is the essence of Christmas: divine love comes to earth in vulnerable human form. It is protected and nurtured by family and friends, and eventually rises above human jealousy, cynicism, anger… but that part of the story comes later. For now, we will think about love and the place it has in our own lives as we go about our daily work of weathering the storm…
“It is love that fashions us into the fullness of our being: who we love, how we love, why we love, and that we love which ultimately shapes us. It is love, before all and after all, in the beginning and the end, that creates us. Today, remembering this, let yourself acknowledge and remember the moments, events, and people who bring you, even momentarily, into a true experience of love, and allow the rest, the inescapable mundanities of life, like a cloud, to very quietly drift away.” (Daphne Rose Kingma, read from our book of daily gratitude in the week of love…)