Lilia Potters is a writer and editor who lives in the U.S. She has 6 grown children and 14 grandchildren, one a 10-year old grandson with high-functioning autism, for whom she cared full-time until he was 6 years old. She is still involved in his care, and her experience with autism has made her passionate about spreading awareness, and helping families with children on the autism spectrum.
I sat back in my seat and waited for takeoff. My back ached and my limbs were stiff from the five-hour drive to the airport and the two-hour first leg of my flight home. I wasn’t looking forward to another five hours in cramped economy-class seating.
Over the years, Christmas has taken on different meanings for me. When I was a young child, it meant a special family holiday, the Christmas story at Sunday school, walking home in the snow, a brown paper bag with a big Jaffa orange, whole walnuts to crack, and a new book to read.
It was Christmas Eve. I was in a hurry, trying to finish my work early and prepare for the evening with my family and friends, when the phone rang. I answered impatiently, “Yes, hello?”
“Merry Christmas, Lilia!” the voice on the other end cheerfully exclaimed in accented English.
The little boy must have been about four years old. I watched with interest as his dad walked to the edge of the diving board at the deep end of the pool and showed him how to dive. The boy clapped and cheered at the splash his dad made as he entered the water, but when encouraged to jump in as well, he backed away apprehensively. “Don’t worry, son,” his dad assured him. “I’ll catch you.”
The weather had been dark and rainy, and I felt just as gloomy. It happens to us all, I guess.
As I sat at my desk, I remembered it was the birthday of a longtime friend—a single, middle-aged woman who had dedicated the past 30 years to nursing and loved her work. Knowing that she didn’t have family in town, I decided to give her a call. Sure enough, she was on B shift, scheduled to work late into the evening, and wouldn’t have much of a birthday this year. As always, though, she sounded cheerful and was happy I had called.
As soon as I got connected to the Internet, dozens of messages that had piled up in cyberspace while I’d been traveling from the Middle East to Europe flooded my inbox. I wearily started separating junk mail from the real thing, and in the process was surprised to find a note from someone I hadn’t heard from in a long while. It read, in part:
This Christmas season the world aches and groansbecause of the losses and tragedies of the year. Many lives have been broken, and many dreams have been shattered. People the world over need to see the light of love that came down on that very first Christmas to brighten their lives, about which the prophet Isaiah wrote, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined” (Isaiah 9:2).