My Mother's Nativity Set
There was a time in my life that we didn't have much. We were not rich. We were below middle class. My parents hit a rough patch in the way of a job lay off in the mid 80's. It took us a long time to recover. Still, my mother was full of charity for others. We didn't have much at all. We had been on and off food stamps and received commodity cheeses and milk. Yet, my mother would offer what we did have to help others who had even less.
She would give others a ride to and from work. She would make a cheap batch of cookies or fudge and take to work with her. She would help people do their taxes each spring, free of charge. She would even help people look at their credit reports and write rebuttals to improve their scores. I can remember her teaching other women to be empowered and write letters about bad service and mistreatment. (pre-internet craze) My dad was a truck driver, and many times it was up to my mom and us 3 girls to handle whatever car or home repairs and emergencies came up.
My mother was a wealth of advice and tactics to help people overcome bad circumstances. She was the very definition of loving other people and helping anyway she could. Many children and teenagers, as we grew up, adopted my mom as their second mother. They felt their parents didn't listen to them or judged them, and that my mom simply loved them. She would scold them when needed, but they found what they were missing at home with my mom. She also spent hours talking to and encouraging them to work on the relationships with their parents.
On one occasion, she saw a homeless woman on the corner begging cars stopping at the red light for money. She asked my mother for help. Again we didn't have much, but it was the Christmas season. My mother had $20 in her purse for the entire week. Mom gave this homeless woman what she had in her purse. The woman was so grateful, she asked my mom to wait for a moment. She returned to the car window with 3 white boxes. She said it was all she had to show her gratitude and gave my mom the boxes. Thinking nothing of it, or that the boxes were some junk, my mother thanked her and when she went to pull away from the curb the woman was gone. No sign of her. Almost as if she had vanished into thin air. She said the woman's disappearance so quickly gave her chills and filled her with a feeling akin to fear. You know that feeling where goosebumps come up on your arms, and you aren't sure if it's a good or bad thing? That feeling.
When mom got where she was going, she looked in the boxes. It was a hand-painted, porcelain nativity set. Every piece was meticulously detailed and quite beautiful. We were raised in a christian home, but didn't attend church because we moved around a lot following jobs, and looking for work for my dad. We hadn't ever had a nativity set (let alone many other forms of Christmas decorations). Mom would teach us about Christ and the bible on her own when we could. So we knew what the nativity was. The first time she setup that nativity she retold the story, piece by piece, until it was completed.
From that day forward, Mom often retold this story. It would give us chills, and mom would tear up. She would swear the homeless woman was an angel. She couldn't explain it any other way. Mother put that nativity set out every Christmas. She would tell us that we never know who among us is an angel.
I say my mother was an angel to that homeless woman and many other people she had in and out of her life. I firmly believe my mother's charity in the worst of times for us is what lead to the blessings that kept our family afloat when we probably wouldn't have made it otherwise.
Mom passed in June of 2009. This nativity set, which currently lives with my younger sister, is a reminder.
First it is a reminder of what Christ did for us when he came to this world as King, High Priest and Sacrifice. It is also a reminder for my family. A reminder to be kind and full of charity, even when our circumstances aren't good. A reminder of the kind of person my mother was and who she raised us to be. A reminder that the most beautiful of things come from the most unexpected sources.
…and you never know… maybe angels are among us.