Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gwen Is The Reason For the Season

 Saw a bumper sticker with an often seen saying today, "Jesus is the reason for the season".

Sorry, no!

Winter solstice celebrations are as old as mankind, I think. Certainly the Romans had Saturnalia (Lindsay Davis has a marvelous picture of it in her Falco mystery "Saturnalia", the Druids has solstice celebrations, and on through the centuries from religion to religion.

What they are all about is gathering in the darkest time of the year and bringing some light to things. Sharing with family. Helping those in need. The quote I've used every year from Charles Dickens says it:

"But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
"And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"

 Let me tell you about Gwen. It's really her name, but I know she'll never see this, never go on the Internet. Not sure if she's ever used a computer.

Gwen is about 60, a very large, sweet faced African American woman who has probably had a lot of hard things and very little love in her life. She came to work at the library via a program for older people that places them in jobs and gives them training, paying them an hourly wage.

The first thing Gwen WANTED us to know is that she is mildly developmentally disabled. She didn't put it that way, think she said something about not being "smart". But she also wanted us to know that she was willing and would work hard.

And work hard she does. If I am careless enough to leave something in the lounge sink after a party, Gwen cleans it up. She clears the mess that is the children's ref desk in order to clean it. She picks up books after the kids have made a mess of the place, even when I've told her I'll do it myself.

She cleans and cleans and cleans and takes great pride in her work. This fall we got another woman (this one library staff) sent over to help and when she didn't do what was needed, Gwen bristled and raised hell.
"She's not going to mess up MY library!" she declared.

We had our annual holiday party yesterday and I realized that we had not done anything to thank Gwen for all her hard work.

So with the help of one of our circulation staff, I took up a collection for her. Times are hard, but we collected over $100 for her. And I bought a money card to hold it last night.

We gave it to her this afternoon and she was so overwhelmed she broke down in tears and it took us a fair bit to calm her down!
"I don't think she's had much appreciation in her life,"our circulation manager commented to me afterwards.

"My day isn't going to get better than that," the staff member who helped with the collection told me. He and all of us had been moved to near tears by seeing Gwen's pleasure in our gift--and in what lay behind it.

THAT'S the reason for this season.

Happy holidays, no matter which ones you are or aren't celebrating.


De said...

One of the other parents whose child is in my son's class has a lot of bumper stickers on her car. They are mostly Buddhist, although she was in the RCIA class with me getting confirmed as a Catholic in 2010. I was behind her today and noticed a new one: Jesus loves you, but I'm his favorite. I tell you, she cracks me up - it's a nice change from the ones with huge signs in their rear windows screaming "Abortion is murder!!!!"

Anyway... what you did for Gwen was thoughtful. If only everyone could remember how good they felt being a part of that and that they can feel that way any time they have a mind to.

jen said...

This brought me to tears. Thank you LL. I don't comment much anymore. I don't have a lot of time, but i always read your words and remember them as i raise my kid. thank you for your wisdom. I'm half a world away. but the books you recommend get read to Max. I make sure when we go places, he behaves and if he doesn't, I do. I make sure he he treats people and places with respect. If we ever get to your neck of the woods to one of your programs, he will be up to your standards.

Now I have to go dance with my kid, wearing my tutu.