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.