MERRY CHRISTMAS, FRIENDS AND FAMILY
I wish we could write a personal note to all of you, or even better, host one big celebration with everyone present. Many have written us either as a comment on a post or in an email. Thank you. You lifted our spirits throughout the year, not just at Christmas. “Merry Christmas” seems a pretty inadequate response to your kindness, though.
Kindness—yours and others—is very much on my mind as I write. We’ve received so much of it while on the loose. Let me give you just one example.
At church Sunday morning the congregation was invited to join with a sister church in the nearby suburb of Northcote for a “Beer and Carols” evening in a pub in a former church building there. We love singing Christmas carols, so we decided we’d go. The evening was open to everyone, a gentle way to present Christmas in a secular setting. We set out in plenty of time but almost missed the event. “Just take Tram #86,” the pastor instructed. Right. Except we didn’t know where to catch #86. We went to the stop just a few blocks from home. Then we discovered it’s a stop only for #75 and #48, but not #86. While Joy was trying to find the tram schedule online, I went in search of human help. You can’t catch #86 in Richmond, I learned. You take #48 into the Melbourne and board #86 there. By this time we would already be an hour late. Still, we persisted.
My helpful informant was Hang, a 23-year-old university student from Hanoi, Vietnam. She works part-time in the flower shop adjacent to Cole’s on Bridge Street, a large grocery chain here. I liked her immediately; I had to bend down a little to hear her! After giving me directions to the proper tram stop–and reading the confusion on my face– she said, “If you can wait fifteen minutes, I’m closing the store and I’ll take you there.” We waited. She walked us to and helped us board Tram #48, accompanied us into Melbourne, then led us from #48’s stop a few blocks to #86’s stop. She wouldn’t leave us until she saw us safely aboard, then waved goodbye. Oh, I forgot to mention. She had a date that evening but offered to cancel it to ride with us out to Northcote in case we needed her (and we hadn’t told her of any of our other transportation adventures. She just surmised. I guess.) As we were walking toward the Parliament building between our Melbourne stops, I pointed to a large church spire in the distance. “Do you know that church?” I asked. “Oh, I don’t go there,” she explained. “I’m Buddhism.”
This is the story of the hard-working young Vietnamese student who is “Buddhism” going the second mile in showing kindness to the elderly Christian couple on their way to a church-sponsored Christmas caroling party in a pub.
Melbourne may not feel very Christmassy to the visiting Americans who’ve always described the holiday as a season of snow and sleighs bells ringing and children singing and fir trees glistening and special church services and manger scenes. In addition, this preacher has always enjoyed reminding everyone of “the reason for the season.” It’s different here. But not totally.
We’re not going to forget that Christmas really is rooted in that remarkable event that “came upon a midnight clear” two millennia ago. But we’re also not going to forget that God majors in the unexpected, sends his message of peace and goodwill to (and through) shepherds in their fields and wise men studying their charts, and offers hope to the least and the lost everywhere– and uses a young woman who runs a flower shop to remind longtime Christians that the Spirit of Christmas comes packaged in many ways.
This time of year is an excellent opportunity to look forward to the new and reflect on the past. Here’s Joy’s monthly selection from her thousands of pictures, each just a hint of the what made 2017 such a remarkable, memorable year for Lawsons on the Loose. We hope yours was good for you and that 2018 will be for you a Happy New Year!
JANUARY -KULPAHAR, INDIA
FEBRUARY – HELENA BAY, NEW ZEALAND
MARCH – VALPARAISO, CHILE
APRIL – SALAMANCA, SPAIN
MAY – CHELMSFORD, MASSACHUSETTS
JUNE – BRANSON, MISSOURI
JULY – NEWQUAY, CORNWALL
AUGUST – CHESTER, ENGLAND
SEPTEMBER – BRUGES, BELGIUM
OCTOBER – TALLINN, ESTONIA
NOVEMBER – KEY WEST, FLORIDA
DECEMBER – MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
After this fairly strenuous year of travel (and Joy couldn’t include Uruguay, Germany, Denmark and Brazil in this retrospective) the following picture pretty well captures The Hat’s general response: