Saturday, December 16, 2006
A few months ago I was trying to search for one of my own blog entries. I knew that it was about Romania, I knew I (Lara) had written it and it seems like there was one other search term I entered. Well, a blog that is titled "Lara's Welt" (That's Lara's World in German, FYI) came up.
I was intrigued, so I clicked on the link and began looking at a photoblog of Romania. Lara, the blog's author, lives in Ploieşti. Ploieşti is very dear to my heart as that is where I spent the bulk of my time in Romania as an LDS missionary. It has been so fun to check her blog every day and see how much Romania in general, and Ploieşti specifically, has changed in ten years.
Because of this blog, I've been thinking quite a bit about the one Christmas I spent in Romania. Christmas 1996 in Ploieşti. (Pronounced Ploy-esht.)
To be honest, this year I haven't felt much in the Christmas Spirit. I'm not really sure why. It could be because we are very lacking on fundage and it is hard to find things for the kids that we can afford. But I know that is probably not it...after all, they're still getting a wonderful Christmas and I've learned how to stretch a dollar further than I ever have before. It could be because it's our first Christmas season here in Cedar City and I don't really have many friends yet. I actually think the biggest reason is the stress I've found myself under...a newborn baby, two other children, trying to make ends meet, Joel working 3 jobs and not being around much, having to work myself (which I enjoy, it's just the time spent doing it that gets me) and so on and so forth. No matter the reason, the Christmas Spirit has just plain been elusive for me this year.
And so my thoughts have turned to the times I have felt the Spirit of Christmas. And one of those times was my Christmas as a missionary. This was definitely one year that I didn't worry about what I would receive at all, and Christmas was all about what I could give. One day we were at a member's home...Sora Clucerescu. She insisted on giving us a ton of holiday baked goods she had made. Much more than we could ever eat. The next house we visited was an invetigator, Elena, and she not only gave us more baked goods, but several pounds of meat and a huge bag of flour. We tried to explain that we couldn't possibly take all of her food and that as missionaries we are well taken care of, but she wouldn't hear it. So, we were loaded down with food that we knew we wouldn't be able to use. So we decided to give it away. We gave cookies and cakes to people waiting at the bus stops. Dreary faces turned to surprised smiles and merry Christmas wishes. We gave the flour and some of the meat to another family we knew who didn't have much. More meat went to another friend. Finally we were left with a cake and we were tired and it was time to go home. We hailed a cab, driven by Romania's grumpiest taxi driver. He was not happy that he had to take us all the way across town, but did anyway. As good missionaries, we tried hard to strike up interesting conversation with him, but he wasn't having any of it. Finally, when he dropped us off at home, we handed him the cake and wished him a Merry Christmas. His whole demeanor changed and we knew that he was genuinely grateful and his day had been brightened by our gift.
Another thing we enjoyed doing was giving away gloves. My companion, Sora Osborn, had written home earlier and expressed her sadness at the many children we met who did not even have gloves in the cold winter. About a month later, she received a package from her mother containing ten pair of gloves. I really don't remember who we gave them all to, but it was a magical experience for us to see that something so simple as gloves could make people so happy.
Finally, on Christmas morning, Sora Osborn, I and the Elders went to a family who was very dear to us. They lived in a tiny house with dirt floors way on the edge of town. They had nothing. We had bought each of the two children a small gift and brought some breakfast. The little girl, Elena, received a Barbie doll which she promptly named "Sora Preston" (that's me), and her brother Ştefan received a toy airplane. After breakfast we went sledding down their long, snow filled, deserted street. It just brought me so much more joy to help make the Christmas of these children wonderful than it would have to receive some great gift myself.
There are so many more, the caroling with the Church youth (pictured), learning the Romanian Christmas traditions like the whip and the goat dancing in the streets. Eating sarmale three different times on Christmas day because of all the many dinner invitations we received. It was truly a joyous Christmas.
And so, I hope that I can find that gift within myself again this year. We already chose a needy 3 year old girl off of the angel tree and spent Family Home Evening this week picking out her gifts. And it did awaken a little spark of Christmas Cheer within me. Now I just need to fan that flame.