I have many fond memories of Christmas. One year, I remember singing Christmas carols in Dell Rapids with my 4-H club. Afterward, we ended the evening at the Lutheran Church where we sang Silent Night with all the lights out and only the Christmas tree lit.
Some of my memories are of the one-room country school I attended as a child. Every year, all eight grades joined together to perform in a Christmas program. We stretched a wire across the front of the schoolroom and hung burlap curtains. When the curtain opened, Mrs. Hainje played the piano and we’d sing songs, or we’d recite poems, or perform little one-act plays. Our program lasted about an hour or two, and every year, my parents faithfully attended.
When I was in eighth grade the country school closed, and I began to ride the bus to school in Dell Rapids. I joined band, and when we had band concerts at Christmas time, my parents would always come to those too. We’d assemble on the stage in the gym, and all the parents sat on grey folding chairs in rows on the gym floor. I remember looking out into the crowd to find them, and they were always there. I also sang in the chorus, and my parents came to those concerts too.
Now, you may be thinking: That’s nothing special, parents should always come to their children’s Christmas concerts — and that’s true. What’s unusual, though, is that my parents didn’t come to hear me perform. You see, my dad couldn’t hear at all, and my mother could barely hear anything either. They were both deaf.
They came to those concerts and sat, sometimes for hours, not hearing a thing. Concert after concert, year after year, they came — not because they could hear me, but rather because I could see them. They came to show that they loved and cared about me.
Among all my Christmas memories — whether of a special gift I received or of a favorite dish at dinner — it was my parents and my sisters who made Christmas special. Christmas was a meaningful time of year because I celebrated it with the people I loved, and who loved me.
For some, the holidays are a difficult time. The parents of a son or daughter serving abroad, the person who just received a grim diagnosis, or the family who recently lost a loved one may not be looking forward to Christmas this year. This season, remember others like that. Do what you can for the sick and the poor and the lonely. Go Christmas caroling at the nursing home, invite someone new over for Christmas dinner, call that friend you haven’t heard from in a while or give to a family in need. As my parents taught me, at Christmastime you don’t just show up to the concert to hear the music. You’re there to show that you care.