Few Sundays before, in church, we were advised to prepare gift packages for the people recently hit by an industrial calamity, to the north of our small country. In a matter of minutes the dam cracked broken and red poison flooded an entire village nearby. That moment engulfed lives and properties. Poor old folks, those who survived, fear the future with no past behind. Young folks deciding to settle far away from the scene of this disaster, starting a new life. Their homes gone, contaminated. Their fields and gardens reddened by alkaline compounds and heavy metal poisons. All they can take with them fits inside a suitcase. Memories of friends and neighbors, of the grocery or the pub nearby, only memories. This brought me to a Christmas story, from a distant Indian summer of the late century.
The pastor was asking his congregation to spare some little money which will be collected and donated, right on Christmas Eve, to the poorest family in the village. This being everyone’s Christmas present for this family.
A young lady, together with her mother and her two sisters, decided to do something for the church collection. To donate. No matter they were orphans. No matter they had few options to feed and clothe for the winter. They knew that others are doing worse than them, are loner, more unfortunate than them.
They, the mother and her daughters, had each other, were sharing the joys of life to make it easier. So the daughters took some extra working hours, menial jobs at other households. They also produced Christmas cards. All the extra income was carefully spared. A month time worth, they ate only potatoes and spent evenings at candle light, to spare on the bills.
Before Christmas Eve, they counted their sparing. Eighty Euros! They made sure to change them in new clean banknotes, because this is the way they were taught to present a gift in front of God: new and clean. Then they walked the two kilometers path to the church. It was raining a cold rain but who cared about that? They were happy because they’re gonna make someone happy this evening. They were offering from their hearts, knowing that some poor folks had nothing to eat, no heat, no family. With those new money in their pockets, they felt like millionaires!
The pastor collected the money in the church. Later on that very same evening, he was about to handle the money as a Christmas present to the poorest family in the village. To those in need.
What moved me mostly wasn’t that the pastor chose to handle the collected money to the same family who worked over a month to gather eighty Euros in new and clean banknotes. This was sort of predictable. But I couldn’t stop my tears when reading how the startled mother opens the envelope handed by the pastor and counts a hundred and twenty Euros in it. Rediscovering amongst them the clean and new eighty Euros.
Eighty four villagers donated a 120 Euros (writing here roughly estimates of local currencies converted into Euros) for the poorest family in their congregation. Out of all, four villagers donated 80 Euros. That was the poorest family in the village. Then something happened in their minds: they realized that THEY are the poorest family. Because they never thought about this before, it was a shock.
Shortly thereafter, they left Transylvania and moved somewhere in Germany. The young writer who sent us these lines is a medical doctor and lives in a nice house, surrounded by heartily neighbors. She left that cold rainy Christmas way behind, in the fog of time.