There is nothing like the creature comforts to warm the hearts of even the loneliest soul. When I am gone away on a long trip, I crave the comfort of my own bed. When I visit my hometown, the familiar foods of my favorite restaurant recall warm memories of my childhood. We call those old cherished recipes “comfort foods” for a reason, for they not only nourish our hunger, but feed our memories and our hearts.
Years ago, when I was about my daughter’s age, my Mom worked as a bank teller. One of her customers was a blind man who lived in a walk-up apartment over a store in the downtown retail district of the small farm town where I grew up. She wasn’t sure exactly where he lived, but she knew he lived alone and was concerned that he’d be forgotten and hungry on Christmas Eve. I recall one year when, after we had finished our festivities and everyone was busy playing with new toys and games (Santa came on Christmas Eve at our house), she asked me if I wanted to go with her to take this gentleman some of the remains of our dinner.
I can still remember the chill of the night and how ridiculous I thought it was that we were walking in and out of these rickety old buildings knocking on doors looking for this man she barely knew. Door after door, one dark and creaking stairway after another, our knocks went unanswered. It didn’t take long before I was cold and tired and wanted to go home to the comfort of my home and the fun I knew I was missing with my siblings. To be blunt, I thought my Mom was nuts to keep looking for this guy…especially when she didn’t even know where he lived or if he even needed a hot meal!
We finally admitted defeat and decided to head for the car. As we did, we noticed a small house next to the last building we had stopped at. There was a light on and my Mom decided to go and knock on that door with our (now cold) plate of food. The door was answered by a gentleman on crutches, looking rather forlorn and disheveled. I still recall my Mom telling him our plight – that we were looking for Mr. XXXXX and had dinner for him. This rather intimidating (to me!) man said he didn’t know who Mr. XXXXX was, but he was alone that Christmas Eve and had wished for a nice Christmas dinner. What a welcome sight we were! For unbeknownst to us, we were the unspoken comfort he was seeking.
That night, all those years ago, has left an indelible mark on my heart. I can still remember those scary dark stairs and the tranformation of the smile on the face of the man we brought dinner to. He wasn’t the intended audience; he was the one who was in need of comfort.
This Christmas, be open to the opportunities to serve others and give The Gift of Comfort to those in need. It doesn’t take grandiose gestures; it takes listening and being obedient to the quiet voice that says “keep knocking” until you find that person in need. If you have children, seek the opportunity to make teaching moments for them, too. I am grateful to my Mom for the lesson she gave me. It has been many years, Mom, but I have not forgotten.