It is close to midnight on Sunday night and I am sitting in an empty office room. During the day, the room is filled with volunteers and staff talking on phones and with each other. But, at night there is only one person covering the phones, and tonight it is me. I work for local hotline crisis center. I have done this for over 13 years now. We talk to people who are in pain, hurt, scared, angry, lost, and sometimes suicidal.
I chose this work because without a line just like this one, I might not be here today. In March of 1987, I made a call to a local crisis line because I wanted to die. I thought I could no longer handle the pain and guilt that ruled my life. I felt that God had long since given up on me, as had everyone else. A wonderful woman spent a long time on the phone with me that night and kept me safe until morning. In my post on Christmas past, I shared some of the things that lead me to that night.
Just the other day I was talking with my friend Jan, and I was shocked to hear that she had never seen “A Wonderful Life.” This is the movie when life takes a devastating turn for Jimmy Stuart, so he stands on a bridge thinking that his wife, their young children, and others he loves will be better off with him dead. He is contemplating suicide when a guardian angel named Clarence comes to his rescue. Clarence shows him what life would be like if he was never born. Stuart’s character comes to realize the impact his life has had on all those in his life, and realizes that he does indeed, have a “wonderful life.”
As I prepare to share this Christmas with my family and friends, I wonder what might have happened if I had succeed that night. I would have missed an amazing life, and the opportunity to share my hope and faith with others. I wouldn’t be here for this Christmas. This year, I will spend time with my church family as we host several services leading up to the Christmas Eve candle light service. I will spend time with my friends Anna, Jan and her kids. Christmas day, I will be blessed to share the day with both of my children, their spouses, and my three amazing grandchildren. If I had succeeded that night, I would never have known the joy of sharing my life with all of them.
I won’t be able to buy gifts as I did last year. I had the most fun shopping last year, but some financial setbacks including a bout with pneumonia in spring and having my car breakdown beyond repair, make it impossible to give the way I did last year. I have been fortunate to find a car I can afford with some serious budget cuts. I have made peace with the situation and believe that Christmas will still be special this year.
Christmas this year will be about sharing special times with those I love and care about the most.It will be remembering the true gift of Christmas was the gift of Jesus It will be enjoying the sounds of Christmas music and singing along to carols as I drive down the road. It will be finding those special small gifts to give to others. I love seeing the Christmas cards and greeting on facebook from all those in my life. Phone calls with people I should talk to more often will add to the holiday excitement. I will of course eat too much chocolate and other baked goods, in spite of Anna telling me how much sugar, gluten, and other harmful things fill my plate. I promise to listen more after the first of the year.
When Christmas day is over and everyone heads to bed, I will log into a computer, pull out my headset, and cover the crisis hotline. Maybe, I will talk to someone who feels lost and alone this Christmas. Whenever I talk to someone like that, I remember the night I made that call and the person on the line that gave me hope. I think of the life I have today, and like Stuart’s character I can say, “It is a wonderful life. “