It’s not like I want to be here.
I can think of about a thousand other places I’d rather be than here at the nursing home where my mom works. I’ve still got a ton of Christmas presents to buy, plus Jenny Morris texted me that she has a boyfriend crisis. And let’s face it: that algebra quiz isn’t going to study for itself.
But Mom had the bright idea that the geezers at the nursing home would get stoked from listening to some Christmas carols. When she told Brother Ned about it, he thought it would be a perfect Youth Group activity. So here we are, standing in a little half-circle, decked out with sprigs of holly on our shoulders and little bells on our stupid red hats; singing songs we barely know to people who are falling asleep in their pureed squash. Mom is beaming as she passes out the medications; all proud that I’m doing something for “her” residents.
Fa la whatever.
It’s been a total snoozefest for most of this hymnsing. Natalie Morrison emoted like crazy, as usual. She acted like she was trying for a Grammy. Doesn’t she realize there’s no one here worth impressing? Jay Ashwell and Tommy Beatty were trying to make time with the younger nursing assistants, and Leah Thompson didn’t sing at all, because she was too busy passing out tracts. I don’t think she’d know how to tell anybody about her faith without a little Roman Road cheat sheet in her hands.
And me? So, OK, I was hoping if somebody got a charge out of it, I’d score enough Brownie points with Mom that I’d get that new Ipod I’ve been hinting at.
We’d sung in three of the four halls and Brother Ned’s promise of hot chocolate and cookies was looking better and better. I couldn’t wait to get out of here. But, in the last hall, as we sang Silent Night, I heard a new voice singing along. You couldn’t miss her, because she sang the wrong words.
“Glade jul, hellige jul!
Engler daler ned i skjul.”
I looked over and saw a tiny, pale woman; her blue eyes glowing with joy. Her steel-grey braids are coiled into Princess Leia mounds over her ears, and she had more wrinkles than a Shar Pei. Leah Thompson gave her a tract, but she didn’t even look at it. She looked past Natalie’s overacting and ignored Jay and Tommy’s antics. She gave me a smile that was sweeter than buttered corn. The nametag on her door read, “Ana Mae Johannsen”. I didn’t know what to do, or why she aimed her smile at me. I just kept singing, and so did she:
”Hit de flyver med paradis grønt,
hvor de ser hva for Gud er skjønt.“
Mom came over and stood next to me. “She’s from Norway,” Mom whispered. “She’s been so lonely since her kids moved to New York.”
All of a sudden, I forgot I hadn’t wanted to be here. Buying Christmas presents could wait; Jenny Morris could solve her own boyfriend crisis, and somehow I’d find the time to study for algebra. In Anna’s eyes I saw the real Reason for Christmas. She was using the song as a way to touch base with God. And she’d chosen to share that experience with me. So, yeah, I still want that Ipod, but this … this was what the holiday season was all about.
I don’t know why she chose me. Maybe that’s the only way she can turn her neck. But maybe, just maybe, instead of me giving this Anna a treat on Christmas; God chose to use her to give me a very special gift.
I didn’t care what anyone thought. I didn’t look to see if anyone was watching. I walked forward and took her hands in mine, and looked straight into her eyes as we sang the last two lines together:
Lønnlig i blant oss de går.
Lønnlig i blant oss de går."
English and Norwegian. Young and old. Both children of God.
Heavenly peace, indeed.
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