The ringing of my phone interrupted my quiet evening drive. It was a close friend on the other end, “Marie, I need you to pray for me!” She only had a few minutes to talk, just enough time to tell me about the very stressful things going on in her life, and I assured her that I would pray for her. After she hung up, I prayed for her out loud for the rest of my drive.
Sometimes I feel paralyzed by all the suffering in the world. There’s simply no way I could make a dent in all the hunger, sickness, poverty, depression, oppression, loneliness, and death. When you look at the brokenness in its entirety, all you see is desolation.
It was my first Christmas in Taipei, Taiwan, when I heard the Christmas classic “Silent Night” sung in Chinese for the first time. It made a special impression, and I remember thinking that I had to learn the words. The first line was fairly easy—after all, half of it is the song title—but beyond that it got harder.
Another Christmas is almost here, and if you’re like most people, you’re probably so busy with all that goes into Christmas that you haven’t yet found much time to stop and think about “the reason for the season.” Well, here’s your chance! This issue of Activated is all about putting the meaning and joy back into Christmas.
I was caught in one of our congested city’s dreaded traffic jams. The endless line of cars, trucks, and buses was crawling forward at barely a walking pace, while pedestrians, motorbikes, and bicycles managed to make a bit of headway, weaving between the lanes. The polluted air was heavy with the fumes of exhaust, and I felt sick to my stomach. With lips pursed in impatience, I observed the puddle-strewn unpaved sidewalk, still muddy from a recent downpour, and amongst the vendors displaying secondhand wares, fruits, and vegetables on tarps, I spotted a crippled beggar boy, not older than seven, holding out his hand.
It was a typical Monday morning, and my husband and I were in town on business for the humanitarian aid project we operate in several Balkan nations. By 10 am it was already getting quite hot. The afternoon was supposed to be even hotter and more uncomfortable, so we were trying to finish everything on our to-do list by noon.
I was fifteen and looked forward to Fridays, as it meant a trip to the beach. Every week during the summer, our youth group put on an impromptu performance of songs and skits on the boardwalk to share the message of God’s love with those passing by.
On my birthday, I often experience mixed feelings—on the one hand, I wish I could escape to a lonely island; on the other hand, the extra attention does feel good. Either way, I’ll say with Todd Stocker: “A happy birthday is measured not in the amount of gifts one gets, but in the amount one is loved.”
Paolo, a dear friend and colleague of mine for the last 18 years, has made it a point and a personal goal to remember people’s birthdays either through a phone call or an SMS. He keeps a list and updates it as he meets new people.
I was watching an interview last Sunday, and the guest was asked, “What’s the greatest need in the world today?” Without hesitation, he responded, “Empathy. The world needs more empathy.”
I probably would have responded, without thinking, that the world needs more love. But I liked his answer. It was much more specific to say that the world needs more empathy.
I’ve recently been reading about the “Pay It Forward Movement.”1 What stood out the most to me is how simple the philosophy is. Yet it’s still often difficult to be altruistic and do something for someone just because someone has helped you, or because you want the cycle to continue.