Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.”     Charles M. Schultz

33 years ago tonight on Christmas Eve, I worked the evening shift at a crisis unit.  It was, of course, the shift no one wanted to work, the shift that was given to those who hadn’t worked there as long as the other crisis workers.  Not surprisingly, it started out busy and with a lot of bang …

There were the usual back door police deliveries of inebriated souls, the frequent calls on the crisis line from those who were barely hanging on, the calls from the emergency room down the hospital corridor that we all dreaded particularly if it involved counseling the families who waited in the hospital room no one wants to ever be in, and then there were those who dropped by because they had nowhere else to go and no one to talk to.  The evening got quieter as the hours wore on and as the night outside grew darker and darker.

That night a “frequent flyer” (as we called the ones who visited the unit on a regular basis) that most folks found difficult came around for a bit of cheer. At that time (and still to this day) I seemed to be the most patient person, the one who managed to sit through what others found excrutiatingly  annoying.  This person had no plans for Christmas Eve and so the task at hand was to figure out a way to help her pass Christmas.

In truth, I was actually rather fond of her. Something about her had always touched me and looking back tonight, what I now know is that she was a mirror for all my loneliness and insecurity. She radiated all the vulnerability that I wanted to hide from others. And so, we spent some hours structuring her evening, making plans for her that were doable. By then it was late and time for her to go.  I was nearing the end of my shift, too.

I did something I had never done nor did again, I walked her down the long hall to the main entrance of the hospital so she wouldn’t have to leave by herself.  When we got to the door (one of those automatic things that keeps opening when you stand there a for while) she turned and grabbed me, hugging me tight. We were standing there, the door was opening and closing, people were passing by us.  Finally, she let go and went out into the night.

I walked back by myself, down the long corridor alone.  It was the last time I ever worked on a holiday …

I dedicate this to all those who serve others during the holidays.  Thank you for all that you give during a season that is not always jolly for others.