I could never forget the Christmas a few years back. Suzanne and I were serving in a local homeless ministry and meeting a lot of material-wise, needy people. Our friends, Bobby, Cara, and Ellen asked us to help find a family that they could bless for Christmas that had children. We found someone rather quickly. She was a single mom with three kids, just trying to make ends meet. Suzanne and I were able to tag along and see what all would happen for this joyous event.
We met our friends at their house. As we arrived we met the mom and she made sure all of them were absent from the home, so we could start the fun. I could not imagine letting complete strangers in my house, but the person we knew vouched that we were good people.
Bobby and I strung up a few lights in the front yard, as neighbors were watching and wondering. Cara, Suzanne, and Ellen decorated a Christmas tree, that I am pretty sure they bought. They placed presents under the tree for each of the kids and we waited for the family to return. The house went from looking very plain to something out of a Martha Stewart magazine. I could not wait to see their faces as they returned to such a beautiful sight. I remember when they walked through the door, they were extremely excited and overjoyed.
I could explain that same feeling the first time I met Ellen. When I first came to North Carolina, I knew the one person besides Suzanne’s parents that I had to impress was Ellen. She was kind and welcoming to me the first time that she met me. Ellen always amazed me, she had a way of always making everyone feel welcome, no matter where we were. She made me feel like a part of her family early on. She always welcomed new people into her extended family without pretense.
As I look back, this day was as magical as most others that I experienced around her at holidays. It never had nothing to do with the cost of it. It had nothing to do with the time that it took. It took everything about Ellen welcoming a few new friends into her extended family and receiving the love she always freely gave. She taught me a little more about Christmas that year, she reminded me that true love is selfless. I know many people miss her, especially around those days that she strived to make so special. Her memory and spirit lives on, when we do the same and show selflessness.