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December 22, 2004 - "Christmas Smiles" by Susan Farr-Fahncke


Welcome to 2TheHeart!

"Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles." --Unknown


This will be our last issue of 2TheHeart until January 3rd. I pray that your Christmas is truly blessed and filled with many smiling moments!

"Christmas Smiles"
by Susan Farr Fahncke

For some reason, this time of year seems to bring out the grumpy in people. The day after Thanksgiving, I was up at 4, shopping with all the other crazy people, and still, I held on to my holiday cheer and my smile. I felt sorry for the people with scowls on their faces, short-tempered with store clerks, shoppers and other holiday drivers. They were missing all the fun, the joy in gathering gifts for loved ones.

However, with each passing day, my "to do" list grew, and I fell more and more behind. I was soon feeling overwhelmed, drowning actually, in all that needed to be done. I found myself growing more irritable every day. I knew my face looked every bit as cranky and negative about the "hustle and bustle" as those I had been earlier pitying.

My stacks of cards, waiting to be signed and sent, my lists of baking to be done, the gifts that I could never quite be finished with, all beckoned one very tired mother. Work got behind, my house suffered the in-between Thanksgiving and Christmas décor, and soon the Spirit of Christmas was only found in brief sporadic moments when my heart opened up enough to let it in.

Soon Christmas cards poured in, more than I had ever seen in one year, and although they made me feel loved, they also reminded me of all that I still had yet to do.

I plowed through the to-do list, not with my usual enthusiasm and sense of joy, but with a sense of "hurry up and get it done", something to cross off the list so I felt like I had accomplished something, anything. I knew my sense of gloom was stemming from pregnancy, constant fatigue and early contractions, added to caring for three children, three jobs, a house to run, two holiday time birthdays in our home.just more than ever to do and less energy to do it with. But I really wanted to feel the Christmas spirit that I usually did. I wanted this time to be magical for my children, not for them to feel my stress and let it ruin such a wonderful time for them.

My nightly prayers quickly became nothing more than a simple plea for me to overcome this perpetual crankiness, followed by my falling asleep before I even got to "amen". The knowledge of this too added to my sense of always falling behind.

Shopping with my youngest son this week brought the simplest solution, one that had never even occurred to me and yet was the exact healing my spirit needed.

Starting off with my list of Christmas shopping still needing to be finished and Christmas looming only a few days away, I could feel the rest of the to-do list still nagging the back of my brain. I left the house without my smile and the beginnings of grumpy sneaking in already. My little Noah, who has never felt a bad mood in his life, skipped ahead of me, his energy and love for life apparent in all that he does.

I headed onto the freeway, and immediately the car in the lane I was merging into sped up, trying to get past me before I could get on the freeway. Irritated, I veered to the shoulder, slowing down and waiting for the room to merge. The car suddenly moved over to the next lane, giving me the room I needed. Surprised, I glanced over and the driver, and was even more surprised to see him smile broadly and wave. Belatedly, I smiled back and no one saw it but Noah, in the backseat.

"Why are you smiling?", Noah asked me in sign language. Being deaf, he watches my face closely at all times.

Embarrassed and mad at myself, I realized how seldom I must be smiling for my little guy to ask me WHY I am doing it now. I told him I was smiling because he makes me happy. A tiny white lie, but by now this was the true reason for my smile.

Next stop was the off-ramp and the mall exit. Always crowded, I knew today would be worse than normal. I pulled off and waited in the long line to get off the exit ramp. I happened to glance over the same time the man in the car next to me happened to glance at me. Instead of the scowl I usually saw on my fellow drivers' faces, this man shot me a smile, warm and genuine. I instantly felt my own spread across my face and grinned right back at him. Wow, two complete strangers in the middle of holiday traffic, being kind and friendly. What do you know!

I found my smile more at the ready, and myself more willing to pass it on. I was surprised at how much better it made my day, how it also seemed to changed others' stressed out holiday faces into cheerful Christmas smiles. Funny how it works that way. Good or bad, moods have a way of creating the ripple effect.

On the way home from our errands, I caught great big grins in a car load of ladies' faces. I smiled back and reflected how happy everyone seemed all of a sudden. Day after day I have been seeing cranky, tired, stressed out people, trying to catch up with Christmas, myself included and all of a sudden, the world seems happy, almost joyful. We passed another car and a little girl waved and smiled, her mother laughing with holiday cheer.

Wondering at this happy epidemic, I happened to glance in my rear view mirror and catch a glimpse of a red Santa hat, and tiny little waving hand.coming from my backseat.

Cranking my mirror down lower, I catch the culprit. Noah sat happily, Santa hat, grin and wave at the ready, passing on Christmas cheer to anyone who would look. Having that dimpled, truly joyful grin directed at me, I wondered at how I could ever live a day without bubbling over in gratitude.

Laughing at my little miracle maker, I wondered how many people had been affected by his smile and contagious grin. How many people found themselves smiling at their families tonight, or the store clerks and other drivers, all because the little boy in the Santa hat smiled at them? The power of one wee little smile can create more change than all the Christmas presents in the world.

I drove home, resolving to savor this feeling and let Noah's smile stay in my heart, and hoping I was not the only one whose Christmas smile was found again.

Susan Farr Fahncke  

I am mom to Nick, Noah, Maya and a new baby on the way! I am also the founder of 2TheHeart and Angels2TheHeart and write in my "free" time. See more of my writing and latest projects on my page at 2TheHeart:



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The Letter Box:

Dear 2TheHeart,
What a story to cherish and remember .. and share.

Thank you for sharing this story, Susan. How many times I have read or heard of someone like your grandfather leaving that final present, or writing that last precious note, or even like Teresa's story [last week] of that roll of film long forgotten but not lost, ready to be found and seen, at the right time, by those much loved.

This world has many sorrows and often is full of pain and regret, yet we all can savor those special moments like you describe. I can't imagine, Susan, how your grandmother felt on seeing that star, but I can guess it lit up her world. And yours.

May we all look for those special gifts which transcend dollars and time which hold a priceless quality, love. And, surprising though they be, there is one gift which is infinitely more to cherish ... Jesus Christ, God's own Star who came to Earth for all, including you and me.

Robert White, Australia

Dear 2TheHeart,
I wanted to share this special Military Christmas poem with the 2theheart family for Christmas. Merry Christmas and thank you for the wonderful stories! Dottie

"Military Christmas Poem"

'Twas The Night Before Christmas,
He Lived All Alone,
In A One Bedroom House
Made Of Plaster And Stone.

I Had Come Down The Chimney
With Presents To Give,
And To See Just Who
In This Home Did Live.

I Looked All About,
A Strange Sight I Did See,
No Tinsel, No Presents,
Not Even A Tree.

No Stocking By Mantle,
Just Boots Filled With Sand,
On The Wall Hung Pictures
Of Far Distant Lands.

With Medals And Badges,
Awards Of All Kinds,
A Sober Thought
Came Through My Mind.

For This House Was Different,
It Was Dark And Dreary,
I Found The Home Of A Soldier,
Once I Could See Clearly.

The Soldier Lay Sleeping,
Silent, Alone,
Curled Up On The Floor
In This One Bedroom Home.

The Face Was So Gentle,
The Room In Such Disorder,
Not How I Pictured
A United States Soldier.

Was This The Hero
Of Whom I'd Just Read?
Curled Up On A Poncho,
The Floor For A Bed?

I Realized The Families
That I Saw This Night,
Owed Their Lives To These Soldiers
Who Were Willing To Fight.

Soon Round The World,
The Children Would Play,
And Grownups Would Celebrate
A Bright Christmas Day.

They All Enjoyed Freedom
Each Month Of The Year,
Because Of The Soldiers,
Like The One Lying Here.

I Couldn't Help Wonder
How Many Lay Alone,
On A Cold Christmas Eve
In A Land Far From Home.

The Very Thought
Brought A Tear To My Eye,
I Dropped To My Knees
And Started To Cry.

The Soldier Awakened
And I Heard A Rough Voice,
"Santa Don't Cry,
This Life Is My Choice;

I Fight For Freedom,
I Don't Ask For More,
My Life Is My God,
My Country, My Corps."

The Soldier Rolled Over
And Drifted To Sleep,
I Couldn't Control It,
I Continued To Weep.

I Kept Watch For Hours,
So Silent And Still
And We Both Shivered
From The Cold Night's Chill.

I Didn't Want To Leave
On That Cold, Dark, Night,
This Guardian Of Honor
So Willing To Fight.

Then The Soldier Rolled Over,
With A Voice Soft And Pure,
Whispered, "Carry On Santa,
It's Christmas Day, All Is Secure."

One Look At My Watch,
And I Knew He Was Right.
"Merry Christmas My Friend,
And To All A Good Night."

This poem was written by a Marine (Name Unkown) stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

    Making a difference, one story at a time!