Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Family at Christmas

My family's all getting together for New Year's and Cousin Dave's wedding, so I got to have Christmas a little differently than I have ever had it on this side of the Pond before. I went to work.

I worked with two Starbucks partners from other stores, one of whom is apparently disaffected from all religions except maybe Buddhism (if you feel like calling that a religion). He spent the morning saying pointedly to people who wished him a merry Christmas, "Enjoy your holiday." (Last post notwithstanding, I do think such corrections are annoying and unnecessary.) I was actually interested in the number of people who said "Merry Christmas," sort of quietly taking a deep breath, bracing themselves, and uttering it with a strange sort of tentative defiance. If people actually said it, I made sure I confidently wished them a happy one back. The other "borrowed partner," as we call them, is a Jewish girl who wanted to wish people a merry Christmas simply because that is indeed the holiday that was being celebrated on this particular day. But every time she said it, they said, "Same to you!" and she said that wasn't quite right, either.

Most of the customers were in good moods, particularly because we were open and they wanted their coffee. The tips were, I think, well-nigh phenomenal. Lots of our favourite customers came in to wish us a happy . . . something, anyway. I kind of got a stomach ache, though, when one guy came in who was spending this holiday on his own yet again. He's divorced, and he has kids, but he's never had them on any holiday that I can remember. He was, as usual and understandably, glum. Maybe more than that. I has nothing to do with me, but I felt almost gut-wrenchingly sad about it.

I was finished with work by noon, at which point I headed off to some friends' from church. They are an unusually hospitable couple. The surface of the table was crammed with food and the perimeter was nearly as crammed with people, some of whom were also divorced without their children in attendance. Personal circumstances aside, everybody still seemed genuinely to be enjoying themselves. We laughed and talked and ate a lot. I thought about the customer and thought he needed something like this.

I'm not going to idealise the Church here, or say that this kind of warm happy-family-like community is a given among believers and doesn't happen anywhere else. But the contrast was stark enough to remind me of Jesus and the reconciliation and hope and community that He came to bring--first with God, and then with each other--whether we always actually get it or not. I still feel sorry for the lack of it. But I am also thankful for the warmth I experienced today. I'm thankful for this on-line community, too. It's a little weird. (I'm not saying you are. I'm saying it is.) But there's warmth here as well. Thank you. And merry Christmas.


Christianne said...

Jenn, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. It made me feel warm and fuzzy and connected inside. Not sure why. Something about you working at Starbucks and people being glad you were open and sharing that part of the holiday with you all. I loved hearing about your partners in work and how they faced the day, and also about your different customers. And I really loved hearing about how you spent the rest of the day. So glad you had a truly merry Christmas, unorthodox or not!

Annelise said...

We had a similar experience of community here in Ireland, even though we were thousands of miles from family. Good blog, and I'm glad you got such good tips! :-)

Dan said...

you have a blog!! cool! You can deff. borrow "Away from Her" - it's so good, but I don't want to overhype it for you. "No Country" was so thrilling, but I will warn you - it's violent - not that gory (in most cases) but it would deff. be considered a shoot'em up. I'll bring the movie to church the week after next if I remember! Peace.

jasdye said...

awww, shucks. i understand the distancing from the whole internet thingy while embracing the community-aspect that we've been able to forge (and sometimes counterfeit).

community and warm/Christmasy feelings aside:
blog-a-thon. are you in? i'm looking for posts on rocking album(s) by Christians.

hope you and yours have a wonderful post-Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post Jenn. And I'm not ignoring you, I've just got lazy with my blogging this last week. I'd like to chat more about our past question and answer session we had in the blog realm.

jeff said...

Hi Jenn-
I followed the link to your blog from Marty's... we know each other a little from Starbucks, as he you've barristaed for Marty a few times. (Can barrista be a verb?)

I had a similar experience to yours with the divorced man. Mine was on Christmas Eve. My second job is at Barnes & Noble, and a woman showed up right as we were closing. She pretty much fell apart and said she had know where to be. (I'm not sure if it's tacky to say that I shared the full story over at my blog. So let's pretend I didn't say that.)

I, too, was reflecting on the church after the event: what it's supposed to be versus what it is. It made me curious if we, as the body of Christ, aren't maybe getting a little too laser-focused. An old-school church tried to be everything to everybody and failed at a lot this. But it seems like more contemporary models of what the institutional church is, it seems like the church is doing some giving up on some of what the church is.
My (possibly romantic) view of the church forty years ago is that your divorced customer and my lonely book reader could just show up and somebody would take care of them.
Today, as church's establish mission statements, wins, goals, whatever, they aren't likely to include things like "meet the needs of weepy of lonely people on Christmas Eve."
I know I should step my game up and try and meet these needs. But it's hard to know what to do...

Anonymous said...

Dear Jenn: I would greatly appreciate it if I could speak to you about your friendship and correspondence with Lloyd Alexander. Can you contact me at tamarh2001@aol.com? Thanks!

Jenn said...

Christianne--I hope you did, too!

Mom--I'm so glad you had that. And that we got to celebrate New Year's together.

Dan--welcome to the blog (a little belatedly). And can I just tell you I'm just biding my time on that scrabulous game until we run out of letters. I have just about given up . . .

Jasdye--I have yet to click on the link; hope it's still relevant . . . I haven't been in the blogosphere much lately.

Marty--ditto. I'll send you an email on facebook.

Jeff--Hi! Thanks for stopping by. I hear you. Actually, I was kind of annoyed with myself after the customer left; the people with whom I celebrated would probably quite happily have accepted him into the circle around the table that day if I had had the presence of mind to invite him. I think it's rare for people to be that open, and I regret that I lost an opportunity with some people who actually are.

Tamarh--thanks for visiting, too. Talk to you soon.