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A personal word from Sue about the Christmas Eve that changed her life…
“I was facing my first Christmas alone. My father had been gone for seven years and with the recent death of my mother still fresh in my heart, the approaching holidays brought only painful thoughts of how alone I really was in the world.
Christmas had always been a festive time in the Thomas home. The hustle and bustle started the week before Thanksgiving and bubbled with friends and parties right up through New Year’s Day. Mom began baking cookies the day after Thanksgiving. Fifteen to twenty different varieties of cookies, with five to ten dozen of each kind were carefully stored in tins, boxes and Tupperware and toted downstairs to the freezers. Mom made sure there were thousands of cookies ready to serve the guests that came through our door.
The smell of the kitchen activity was only a prelude for what was to come. Next would be the laughter that would soon mellow into the sound of Christmas carols. The Thomas household was filled with music as much as it was filled with friends. It was the strong Welsh background of my father along with the German heritage of my mother that brought forth the tradition of singing the melodies of the heart. Christian hymns were part of the daily atmosphere of my home and the carols of Christ’s birth were the grand finale at the year’s end.
This continued until 2003 when Mom and I had our last Christmas together. We had opened our home to friends and neighbors and on that day the laughter rang and the Christmas carols pealed forth. With the 21 foot Christmas tree in the living room and the festive red punch bowl continually being filled it was indeed a Grand Finale. At the age of 90 years, Mom sat and watched the “parade go by” and one more time experienced the joy of friends and family celebrating together. After the last person had left, and we reminisced together over the last of the cookie crumbs, I held Mom tenderly in my arms and shared my heart that there could be no Christmas for me without her.
Two months later, on February 29, 2004, the music stopped for me when heaven called Clara Thomas home. Grief stricken with the loss, I withdrew from the world and remained in seclusion from family and friends to slowly learn how to face each day without my best friend, my teacher, and cheerleader… my mother.
As the year’s end was approaching, I confided in my new caregiver and friend, Deborah, the emotional turmoil I was feeling. I could not spend the holidays in the home where Christmas had been such an important occasion. Gone were the 21 foot tree and all Christmas decorations. Gone were the parents who had given me so much.
But God was at work preparing a very special gift for me. As the Giver of the best of all gifts, He had given the world His beloved Son, Christ Jesus. Now He was about to open a door that would change my sorrow with the memories of Christmas, and give me a gift that would fill my heart with such peace and joy.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, a friend was arriving from California to act in a play in Cleveland, Ohio. Being only an hour away, I jumped at the opportunity to see my friend as well as to give Deborah the opportunity to see the play, “BIG RIVER”. I had previously seen this play in New York when it was on Broadway and being a play that featured both hearing and deaf actors, I knew Deborah had to experience it.
It was a cold clear night. Framed by the waters of Lake Erie the city shivered in the wind chill. It comforted us to know that the hotel was only a short walk to the playhouse. The performance was wonderful. Then I spoke briefly with my friend to arrange a late dinner meeting at the hotel. The walk back to the hotel was much colder than expected but it would be in the damp coldness of that night that God’s precious gift awaited us.
The town square was brightly lit with festive attire. Steam rose from the grates and very few cars were out due to the piercing cold. With the wind blowing in our faces, we were anxious to get to the hotel. And it was there on the curb outside the hotel doors that we discovered God’s greatest gift – two homeless people curled up on a heated grate bundled with blankets and newspapers to keep them warm. I knew I could not walk past them, and took some bills out of my wallet to give to each person. As I began to walk away, I turned to look back and knew I couldn’t leave them on the street while I went into the warm hotel. And in my heart I knew God was telling me to get them a hotel room with a hot shower and a warm bed, even if it was just for this night.
That night showed me where I need to be every Christmas Eve. It is a place where my mother and father can keep watch from heaven. ..a place where I can return the joy and happiness that I had found throughout my life with family and friends during the holiday seasons. Remembering my Mom’s hours of loving preparation and service I discovered that the greatest gift is truly found in giving.
Thus, Operation Silent Night takes place every Christmas Eve when we gather a few friends and go to the streets to be with the homeless. Armed with donations from local and chain restaurants who donate their hot sandwiches, we find as many hungry people as we can. Each year more love is added through such gifts as coats, gloves, socks, hats and blankets as well as homemade holiday cookies. Our Amish friends in PA continue to make piles of handmade comforters. It brings such warmth to the soul to wrap a handmade blanket around the feet of a total stranger. Remembering those who have no place to lay their heads brings renewed meaning and purpose to the season. And although the shops and cafes close early for the holidays, the barren city streets rings with joy and laughter.
That precious gift that I received in my greatest sorrow continues to be unwrapped each year on the streets of the cities. There is great joy and peace in the silence of this holy night. If you feel God nudging you to give or in some small way to be a part of this outreach please let us know. May your love be the gift of your life!
Sue Thomas Ministries
is a registered non-profit 501c3
and all gifts are tax-exempt
Federal tax ID # 34-1794391