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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND (article first published : 2005-12-23)

As with other festivals the upcoming season may not be such a joyous time for the animals on the earth, what with fireworks and the noise they cause, also so many people packing up their homes and heading off on their annual holidays, so this prayer I came across, from St Francis of Assisi moved me greatly …

The animals of the Earth are among God’s special creatures: they help us work, carry us, guard our homes at night – and, best of all, they bring us joy and laughter.

Well, I myself experienced much joy and laughter one afternoon last week, when I took it upon myself to give what I called a mini-rainbow-nation Christmas party at my home one afternoon, inviting the son of my Indian dressmaker, a lovely, polite lad named Holden, a black boy named Mduduzi, with a brilliant white smile, who is being mentored by an ex-colleague from my SABC days and then, the third to make up our little group yet another eight-year old, named Simone, daughter of a newly-made friend from the local pool who has sadly recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. I purposely timed this little afternoon’s jollity for the afternoon of the operation itself – and am pleased to report the gorgeous young 40-year-old woman has not lost the breast but does have to undergo a year of treatment, and my prayers are with her and her family.

I have the marvelLous videotape of Olivia Newton-John in her hey-days, called Xanadu, so the name I came up with for our little function was A Xanadu Xmas. Each child, on arrival after being dropped off by respective parents, had to ring the jingle bells on entry to my home (courtesy of SABC’s old Sound Effects Library, which belonged to the beloved Midge Doherty from the days of her Wishing Well programme for children). Then they had to ring them once more as they left, departure party-bags firmly gripped as they thanked me for a ‘very fun’ quote afternoon (though I was amused that each one of them, having partaken of a ‘healthy’ repast, since I’m still on my ‘new lifestyle’ programme – they ate fruit salad and yoghurt, plus fruit-juice, all in individual containers labelLed in each one’s colour for the day, namely red, blue and green – handed me back the rosy red apple that resided among the choccies and toys in their bags… and after I’d spent a good ten minutes polishing them till they literally glowed!)

Anyway, as well as Xanadu one child had brought along the video of Shrek, and parents were highly amused, when arriving at the pre-arranged pick-up time, to see Bev joining in the singing and dancing in the final, very clever scene of that film, where the producers managed to incorporate a lot of contemporary fun music, and the cartoon characters danced The Macarena – which was a big hit at the time the film was released. A most entertaining afternoon, though I have to admit I collapsed into bed very shortly after seven that evening!

Finally, a touching story which may well have done the rounds by now - but which was new to me - recently came my way, and I shall end with it as I feel it epitomizes the REAL spirit of Christmas-time …

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run-down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve. They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc., and on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On December 19 a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm – hit the area and lasted for two days. On December 21 the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head-high. He cleaned up the mess and not knowing what else to do but postpone the service he headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea-market for charity and there he discovered one of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory-coloured, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colours and a Cross embroidered right in the centre. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall! He bought it and headed back to church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus but missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus due 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got to work to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. He could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and how it covered up the entire problem area. Then he noticed the woman walking down the centre aisle, her face ashen as she asked where he had got the cloth. He explained and the woman then asked him to check the lower right corner, where they found the initials EBG crocheted there. These were her own initials, having made this same cloth 35 years before, in Austria, and she could hardly believe his story of how he’d come across it. She explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came she was forced to leave and her husband was to follow her the next week but he was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her husband or her home again.

The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth but she insisted he keep it for the church, after which he insisted on driving her home, feeling it was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a house-cleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve, the church almost full, the music and the spirit marvelous. At the end of the service the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said they’d be returning. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighbourhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving. This man asked where the pastor had got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria, before the war, and he wondered how there could be two so alike. He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and how he was supposed to follow her but had been arrested and put in prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.

The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door, and he then saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine!

This is a true story from a man named Pastor Rob Reid.

And on that note, may I wish each one of you who reads this the same blessed and sacred feeling at this special time. I’ve had my own miracle this past year, when pain had me on the verge of taking my own life, but have taken my weight issues under control and turned my whole life around due to the loving devotion of an exemplary daughter, and now live each and every moment filled to the brim with joie de vivre. May I wish you the same in 2006. - Bev Pulé




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