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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Lonely At Christmas

December 23rd, 2010

It began as a desperate act of self-preservation.

In December of 2007 I’d been living in Lubbock for several months after 14 years in the Phoenix valley. I was a not by choice divorced single Dad living in a place I never wanted to live. Somewhere in the middle of the month I realized that this would be the first time in my life that I’d be alone for Christmas.

It was a pretty awful thought.

I volunteered to help with my daughters’ school Christmas party. Among the other parents there was a lady wearing scrubs. I asked her where she worked and she said, “Carillon House”. I didn’t know what or where that was. She explained it was a skilled care facility. “It being Christmas time I suppose they get lots of visitors up there”, I said. She shook her head. “Sadly, no. Even a lot of the residents who have family here in town don’t get visited on Christmas.” That’s sad, I thought. I went back to passing out candy canes and overly frosted cookies.

Christmas Eve afternoon I was starting to lose it. I’ve always been with family and friends on Christmas. Lonely was what other poor souls struggled with during the holidays, not me. “Lonely at Christmas” was an article I read in a magazine, not what I saw when I looked in the mirror. Now lonely was me.

Lonely sucks.

Ever feel like running and you don’t know where to go? I got in the car and started driving, trying to remember where I saw a thrift store. It was about an hour before all the stores closed on Christmas Eve when I found the Savers store. I went in and bought all the vases I could find, then drove to Wal-Mart and bought some ribbon and several bunches of roses. That night I prepped all the flowers and vases and went to bed.

Christmas morning I drove to Carillon House. I hit the elevator button for the second floor. When the door opened I walked to the first room on the north side, took a deep breath and went in.

“Merry Christmas. I’m Todd. Here’s a flower for you.”

The gray haired lady in her hospital bed looked at me with a mix of surprise, gratitude and suspicion. “Why…thank you. Do you have someone up here?”

“Nope. Just here to say hi and give you a flower. How are you feeling? What brought you in here? Are you getting better?”

In case you ever wondered, I’m the best in the world at asking questions. It’s because I’m genuinely interested in people and their stories. And it’s a control/defense mechanism. If I keep people talking about themselves, they won’t have a chance to ask me about me.

And so I went, room to room. I spent over four hours at Carillon passing out flowers and hearing people’s stories. The time passed until it was Christmas past.

A few days into the new week I starting thinking about the roses in the vases. They’d be drooping by now. Few things are sadder than a rose browned and bent over in a vase. They’d have to throw them away. And the vases would be empty.

It was one of those private “come to Jesus” moments. If I didn’t go back to Carillon, then my Christmas day visit would be a pure act of selfishness. Sure, I took flowers. Sure, I visited with people. But the truth is I was there because I didn’t want to be alone. If I never went back, what would that say about me?

So on New Year’s Day I said to Annie and Emma, “Girls, we’re going to go visit some people.” We got more vases and roses and off we went. We’ve been going ever since. With the exception of several out of state vacations and the girls having the flu, we’ve been there every week for the past three years. After the first several months Emma asked me, “Daddy, what’s on the 4th floor?”

“That’s Vista Care Hospice”.

“How come we don’t go up there?” I didn’t have a good answer so after that conversation we’ve been there every week, too.

Over that time we’ve met many fascinating people and heard the stories of their lives. My girls have learned what it means to “serve each other with love” (Galatians 5:13b). At ten years old they are completely comfortable around the elderly, their wheelchairs, walkers and canes. They talk and visit and laugh and I couldn’t be prouder of them. We’ve gotten to know people, developed rich friendships and grieved when they left for heaven.

Christmas is in a couple days. With due respect to my dear friends here, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t still a sizeable loneliness in my life. There’s no getting around the fact that the holiday season magnifies what’s broken in a person’s life. I still deeply miss my family and friends in faraway places and wish that I could be in their kitchen laughing and eating and sitting by their fireplace. Yet from that long ago dark night when the angel announced the Good News to shepherds in the hills of Bethlehem, Christmas comes to us where we are. And where I am, like it or not, is here.

It’s Christmas in a couple days. We’ll go to Carillon House to visit our friends who also know something about “lonely”. They’ll be thinking about their spouses who died this year or last, about all the friends they’ve outlived,  and how they probably never imagined spending Christmas in a skilled care center. We’ll spend time together, encouraging one another and hopefully remembering that Christmas comes to us where we are. And in the coming, it brings the hope that someday we’ll all be in a place where lonely is nowhere to be found.

Wherever Christmas finds you this year, remember that Jesus comes to you where you are. And that He can take even desperate acts of self-preservation and redeem them for something good.

Merry Christmas.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold I bring you glad tidings, good news of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you this day in the city of David is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!” – Luke 2: 10-11

Todd A. Thompson – ASliceOfLifeToGo.com