A Christmas Story

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By August Lightfoot

It was June at my Uncle’s farm, which is a busy time of the year. What has been sowed now has to be reaped.

My Uncle, the second-oldest, impresses me with how he lives. He was a career Navy man dedicated to serving his country. If satisfaction comes from faith and helping others, my Uncle should be the happiest person on earth. With him it seems to be more of an inner happiness.

Outwardly, he is full of stories about adventure, failure, success and the humorous-stupid things people do. It always leaves me with a question for which I have no answer: How does one become such a person of faith and believe so strongly in helping his neighbors or strangers?

I thought about that as I was taking a picture of a church across from Union Station in New Orleans. I continued with those thoughts as I squeezed through the crowd to find my seat on the Sunset Limited heading back to California.

As I got to my seat there was a very cute young lady smiling at me, as she said hello. I thought to myself, good company, as long as the conversation is not above the airhead level.

She told me about being on her way to see her dad, stationed at Fort Hood, before returning to Seattle. She was 20, single, going to school and was visiting friends in New Orleans.

After a couple hours we started talking about religion. She talked about how she looked at the areas of life where she could help and how she could accomplish that self-imposed goal. You could feel the determination and faith of her convictions. As I was engaged in the conservation I also was thinking about what sustains faith and conviction.

She was more than just another lost soul who had just wasted the last four years of her life in high school. There was quite a bit more. You really can’t tell a book by its cover.

The young lady was kind enough to join me in the dining car for the evening meal. We sat with a social worker and a lady from New Orleans. Quickly the idle dinner conversation turned to what help was still needed in some of the worst damaged parts of the city. My traveling companion was visiting friends and had seen some of the worst areas that still needed help. She already had some ideas she was going to present to her church, with some remedies, to help those still in need.

Then the conservation turned to other projects and places. I was impressed that this young lady was the only one of the three that had worked on more serious projects. There were trips with her church group to Mexico, near some very dangerous border towns, to help Mexicans in need.

I had to wonder what made this big little girl do things most adults avoid like the plague.

This carried me back to my Uncle who made several trips to Mexico to build houses for the poor. It was interesting that he said the worst problem was they had to bribe the Mexican officials to let them help the poor. How could they be so much alike yet so far apart in age and experience?

As we dined and talked, one of the ladies said to my young traveling companion, “You are wise beyond your years.”

How could a 20 year old be wise beyond her years, considering most of today’s youth are alive but not living? After returning to our seats the conservation about faith continued.  It did not take long before it seemed like I was talking to my Uncle and how their experiences were almost identical regarding helping those that needed their help. The faith, the will and desire that few of us have,

Again, I drifted back to the question of how a 20-year-old and my Uncle at 77 years old could be so much alike. Both have the confidence and the strong desire to do good for their fellow travelers going down the same road. How did they become who they are?

That is a true Christmas Story.

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