Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Cindy Brady, the Homeless, and Christmas Miracles
Just a few days before Christmas I found myself blue and weepy. In fact, I wrote, “. . . it would take a Christmas miracle to stop the tears from falling.” It was difficult to truly verbalize how I was feeling and the multitude of conflicting emotions. Part of me wished I could just sit on Santa’s lap and tell him the wishes of my heart so that on Christmas morning it could all be better. Isn’t that how all the Christmas television specials are resolved? Didn’t Cindy Brady ask Santa for her mommy’s voice to come back so she could sing on Christmas morning? Lo and behold, wasn’t that Carol Brady singing a solo on Christmas morning even though she had been suffering from laryngitis for days?

Somehow, even I, the self-confessed recovering television junkie, knew that it would indeed take a real Christmas miracle and not a made-for-TV-scripted moment. Sure, I would go to church and sing carols of glad tidings and share special moments with my family exchanging presents and sharing in our many traditions. And while I take great comfort in the traditions and festivities, it still felt like simple motions barely concealing a crumbling heart.

On Christmas morning after attending Mass with my family, I sped off to Pasadena to join friends volunteering with a homeless shelter. A friend of mine convinced me that getting out of my own head might be just what I needed to shake the blues. He had volunteered with this shelter in the past and promised me I would not soon forget the experience. The shelter sponsors a holiday celebration in the park complete with Christmas dinner, entertainment, and Christmas presents for the children. Yes, even Christmas presents for the children who come from homeless families (I have to repeat this to myself because even the concept of homeless families and children is so far from my reality that I cannot seem to truly grasp it).

Continuing to detach myself emotionally, I began to help Santa distribute presents to the children. At first it was difficult trying to figure out what types of toys would be most appropriate for the kids. Nearly everyone was happy, excited, and thrilled with the generous presents that had been donated from the community. I was on task, focused on getting the children's ages and selecting presents, and moving the process right along as if robotic. And that is when I saw her.

She had brown hair pulled back into two pony tails on either side of her head. She was a tiny girl, the top of her head barely reaching her mother's hip. She shyly stood as close to her mother as possible, one arm looped around momma's thigh, clutching the polaroid of her on Santa's lap just given to her moments before by one of Santa's "elves."

I heard someone say “girl age 3” and I reached down to select a couple of books, a stuffed animal, and the sweetest “real baby” baby doll complete with accessories hoping she would like the selection. As I turned to hand them to the little girl, her big brown eyes got even bigger, her smile lit up the park, and she looked at the box with the baby doll and looked at me and looked back down as if she didn’t believe it was hers to take with her. I gave it to her and she looked up at her smiling mother with tears in her eyes nodding her approval. She gently took the box and, if it were possible, her smile grew even bigger, more electric. I never heard her speak, but I watched her walk off with her mother, alternating between looking at her new baby doll and smiling up at her mother.

I could tell several more stories of little girls getting Barbie Princesses and little boys excited about new Legos. Christmas in the park was a lovely day. The sun broke through the early morning fog, the food appeared plentiful, and the camaraderie was joyous. For many people, including the many volunteers, there was indeed a Christmas miracle. And while on this morning it didn’t take place in a manger, or get scripted in a sitcom, it was evident in the big brown eyes of a joyous little girl who at this very moment is likely hugging tightly her brand new baby doll.

Sometimes, you just need to break away from your own reality to appreciate everything about the life you have and miracles that take place in your own life everyday.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12