A year ago I wrote this story for the Partners blog. Then recently I saw that it was published in the Free Burma Rangers’ prayer guide. That made me happy (and a little proud). I think that the words are as true today as they were a year ago, so I think I will post it here. Right now.
Who is the little match girl?
Every year at about this time I am exhausted. I work so hard on making a perfect Christmas for my family that I run the risk of ruining it for them by turning into a grouchy Grinch. I read in the newspaper yesterday that the Christmas season is the time of the year when most marriages fall apart and depression is as common as the flu. The counselor explained that she thought the reason was that we all have such high expectations for this time. Then the expectations turn to disappointments when the people closest to us don’t pick up on the clues, and it goes downhill from there.
As an act of great discipline I have decided that perfection is not the house that resembles the Pottery Barn model home, or the food that would Martha Stewart impressed. Perfection is the contented looks on my children’s faces while we do things together. Perfection is stopping and making time for the ones who thought that the world no longer had time to spare. My daughter Kristin, who turns 8 tomorrow, summed it up for me two nights ago: “You know, mom, I like getting ready for Christmas more than Christmas itself, because we are doing things together.”
One of the things we do together in order to calm our hearts, is reading Christmas stories aloud. Tonight we will read The Little Match Girl. This is a story that makes me cry every time I hear it. I think of this little cold girl sitting on the street corner trying to sell matches. I imagine her cold fingers and I can almost hear the growls from her hungry stomach. I wish I could have walked by her and picked her up, wrapped her in a blanket, taken her to my home and fed her a warm meal. Why didn’t the passer-bys do that? I am sure my voice will break as we read and my kids will look at me and smile at mom who always cries when we read stories.
The girl in the story becomes a picture of all the little match girls—and boys, who are as cold and as hungry as she was. There are too many of them right now. The ones I am thinking of are in the jungles of Burma. As the temperature drops drastically they are cold, hungry and afraid. Many are sick and have no medicine. I imagine that many of them also look into a small fire that keeps them warm for a moment and dream of a world when they can eat until they are full, be so warm that they feel drowsy and enjoy the luxury of fearlessness.
I am not sure if we are all this way, but I tend to be very self-righteous. I think that I would not have been one of the busy people who did not notice the little match girl sitting on the street corner. I would have done something before it was too late. I think that I would not have been among the ones who got Jesus crucified. I would have recognized him as the Son of God. I think of myself as a person who has great judgment and sense of righteousness. It is easy to watch on the outside and know the right thing to do. What I tend to forget is that I am actually not merely an observer of a play. I am in the play. I can do something to change the ending of the story.
So as we sit down to read the Little Match Girl tonight we will also ask ourselves who the match girls and boys are today that we can do something for. I would hate for a story to be written some years from now about the cold and hungry children in Burma who died alone because the world was too busy making Christmas cheer to take any notice of them.