Giving self away Print
Living and Learning
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008 -- 3:43 PM
Living and Learning column by Msgr. Daniel T. Ganshert

Christmas stories. I have one for you. It's about Mary. Wearing a baggy dress and a saggy sweater, she would enjoy an ice cream sandwich at the summer county fair just like the rest of us.

That's where I would see her each year when I was growing up. She looked old and lonely, but obviously had not lost her taste for the sweet treats in life. Other than that, Mary was a mystery to me until one Christmas many years ago.

Old hotels and winter nights. You have probably read stories of fires when the stove overheats or a space heater overturns. Well, before anyone knew what was happening, flames had traveled through the walls of the old building and the roomers found themselves out on the street watching it burn. Mary was one of them.

Working in a small nursing home, Mary never had much money. Surprisingly, she always found enough to buy some simple gifts for her nursing home friends. Gifts like a bar of soap, a hair comb, a candy bar.

Telling the people around her that the gifts were sitting on the top of her dresser, Mary ran back into the burning hotel before anyone could react. They might have been simple gifts, but Mary died trying to retrieve them. After all, they were for the most important people in her life.

So, Mary was not such a mystery anymore. She was a person who thought of others before thinking of herself. That ice cream sandwich at the fair was a tasty treat. But it was sharing little gifts with others that brought real enjoyment to her life. She might not have made such a splendid appearance, but her body language was beautiful. She was ready to give herself away for others.

Recalling Mary's story at Christmas helps me to understand the message of the birth of Jesus Christ. The message of God's love. It is in the body language of the One who was born to give himself away for others, you and me, the most important people in his life.

Msgr. Daniel Ganshert is the vicar general of the Diocese of Madison.