Sunday, December 22, 2019

My Christmas Gift This Year

I’ve not blogged since November 3. The interval between then and now has schooled me in my own fragility. For several months before November, I’d dealt with the pain of bone on bone. Then on November 18, I had total left knee replacement. 

I’d had the same surgery—with the same orthopedic surgeon—nine years before on the right knee. All had gone well then. In fact, I looked back at the whole thing as almost “a walk in the park!”

However, from the 18thto about a week ago, nothing went as I thought it would. There were mishaps: two weeks of unexpected drainage; misinformation; much more pain than I’d anticipated—all because of the new protocol the surgeon now uses. One word describes these weeks: grueling.

Having no appetite, I’ve lost 8 pounds. For four weeks, I got no more than 2 hours of sleep a night because of knee and back pain caused by the new protocol. My spirits have been down. My family and friends have said, “We’ve never seen you this way before.” Normally, I ignore pain and look always for the best. I’ve been unable to do that this time.

But Tim, the outpatient therapist has been encouraging. Because of his suggestions and gentle prodding, I’ve left the despair of the first four weeks and entered a room lit by my hopes for full recovery. In the past week, I’ve become less self-absorbed, more aware of the wide world beyond my home. A plethora of wonderful human beings inhabit this world.

For me, this is the great gift of Christmas.

Nativity scene in Jerusalem in 2014 at the Church of the Assumption

Many of us may doubt whether the Bethlehem Christmas story every happened. We believe that Yeshua was born to Mary. But were there shepherds, kings, and angels? Did a star announce glad tidings? 

For myself, whether there were or not, doesn’t matter. The fact is I need this story each year to remind me that human beings are—by and large—wonderfully good.

I need to believe that I am freely given the gift of love without my having to deserve it. I’m given this gift daily from families and friends and from the unexpected stranger who journeys with me on the back-and-forth Uber/Lyft trips I take to therapy. During these trips, I’ve heard so many touching stories; been greeted by so much good will; been witness to the drivers’ hopes that all shall be well.

During this year, I’ve met kings—the famous and inspiring people whose words in books, songs, blogs, news stories inspired me. 

I’ve encountered shepherds—the homeless who live in cardboard boxes and who, in some ways, are the forgotten of society. They somehow hold on to life and look forward to good news—if not today, then tomorrow.

I’ve seen a star—a portent of the future and my hopes for it. I recognize its brilliance in the truth-filled lyrics of a song, the cadence of a poem, the compassion of a stranger, the pages of a book. All have encouraged me to hold on to my dream of writing until I can write no more. 

So you see, I need this Bethlehem story. It is a clarion call to me each year to embrace what life offers and to find the good in all. I forgot that during the weeks since the operation. I’m remembering it now. 

If it’s possible, let’s remember together.

May Bethlehem be the place where we all meet in good will and rejoice in the freely given gift of the good will of other human beings.