Friday, 2 January 2015

A Christmas Miracle

I have friends who are expecting a christmassy post, filled with festive love, cheer and reflections on 2014. Initially that is what I wanted this post to be, one filled with the excitement and hopes which go so well with the traditional Christmas season. That was how December began, I was so excited about Christmas. My advent calendar arrived on the 1st (as a surprise from the parents) and I had already started my Christmas shopping, I was ahead of the game and finally feeling in control. I would be at home with my family, in front of the tree trading gifts and sharing in the joys of family. I was beyond excited. I didn't want my cynicism to get in the way of such a happy time of year. You could say I had too many expectations, and maybe in some ways I did. What hit me first was the exhaustion. I've been home for a while now, and I knew I'd crash, but I didn't realise it'd be so hard to recover from. On Christmas day, we were going round to family friends for drinks. Knowing that it'd be a fairly large group, some of whom would be total strangers to me just sent me into a silent tail spin. I felt pretty determined to go but in the morning I couldn't face it. The walls felt too close and the house felt too small. I had to get out, escape. Once everyone left, I wrapped up and took the dog for a walk. The weather was perfect: crisp and cool but the sky was virtually cloudless and the seafront looked like something from a postcard. As I walked I had time to think. I saw families, couples and people alone. I wondered what their stories were, what had brought them here on Christmas day. I know for me it was escape. I had no idea what drew me to the sea side when normally I like to run up to be up on the hills, above it all. But there I was, on Christmas morning I found myself staring out to sea and people watching with my dog. To me, it felt perfect. It was what I needed. Then the dog (I should probably name her now) Tilly, started causing chaos; running up to other dogs, people and I was worried I'd be shouted at. Then, she ran over to a man sat on a bench at the edge of the promenade. He had his head between his hands, and looked really sad. I didn't know what do, and to a point couldn't do anything, much less approach him. But over she ran, and he looked up, and started stroking her. We smiled at each other and I continued the walk, we caught up again later and he thanked me (well more my dog) for making his christmas. I smiled and marvelled at how a little affection from a tiny scruffy little terrier could make someone so happy. I thought that'd be the end of it, but it wouldn't be a Rambaut family christmas without Tilly causing some sort of chaos. As she stopped to sniff around an old ice cream kiosk I hovered nearby, knowing she'd just stay put if she thought I'd gone too far. Suddenly, she is charging across a car park, and heading straight for the main road. I am tearing after her, praying she doesn't manage to get hit by a car, and desperately trying to catch her. She reached the other side of the road and headed into the park... As it turns out she was heading straight for the man on the bench from earlier. The second she got to him, she stopped, shortly followed by me, who was flustered, annoyed and scared to death for my dog since she likes to run into roads. We put her on her lead and the man offered to walk with me a while. Since I decided that she wasn't going to move unless this happened, we started talking. As it would turn out the man had a friend who he used to regularly run along the seafront with and they always stopped at that bench for a cigarette. He and his friend were soldiers, and in his words:
"We went to fight, I came back and he didn't. We promised we'd carry on this ritual even without the other." I felt myself welling up slightly, since it turns out that this was the man's first Christmas without his friend there. And all because of my dog being a loon, he had someone to talk to, and I got to experience a Christmas miracle.

I think what I am trying to say (in a very long winded soppy way) is that NO ONE IS INSIGNIFICANT. NO ONE IS ORDINARY. I was anonymous, walking my dog on a sunny morning and my decision changed the course of someone's christmas day (or more accurately my dog's decision). It is so easy to fall into believing that you are insignificant or ordinary, and incapable of big things. Well it isn't true. Humans are amazing. And I think each one of us is an extraordinary creation even if we don't see it. Happy (belated) Christmas.