I am writing this from Mazatlan -- "Paradise" as my husband and I refer to it, for good reason. Imagine deplaning and being greeted by a group of uniformed school children singing Christmas carols. Picture a live nativity scene in which Mary's donkey refuses to budge and Joseph is forced to tug and tug at the burro, enticing it toward the inn. Envision tennis matches in 70-degree weather, walks on the beach at sunset and time to actually read a few books. That's how the week started, but three extra special events here in Mexico reminded me of the "Reason for this Season."
Following the church service last Sunday, my husband Dave, our son Andy, our two Utah friends, Scott and Pam, and I went to Mary's Café to eat. Dave had eggs Benedict, and midway through our breakfast Mary came to our table, saying it was only the second time she had served eggs prepared that way, and she wanted to know what Dave thought. Never one to complain about food, Dave said they were fine. Mary insisted he tell the truth, explaining that she could not improve if she did not have his honest opinion. Finally, my husband said the sauce was a bit runny. Mary seemed excited. "Exactly what I thought!" she exclaimed, as if she had just won the lottery.
Mary thanked Dave and scampered away. Soon after, a blind beggar approached our table. Mary reappeared immediately, hugged him and led him to another table. As we five exited the cafe, we noticed Mary serving him a hot meal. I waited for her to return to the kitchen and approached her, telling her how impressed I was with her character. "I believe that's why we are here," she said. "It's all about making people smile." I was to learn the beauty of that myself with the second highlight of this trip.
It came on Christmas Eve day when Dave, Andy and I went with the employees from the next door resort -- a yearly tradition for us -- to distribute gifts to some of the poorest of this city. Caravanning in trucks, hip-to-hip on bench seats lining the bed's sides, we sat alongside friends from the west coast who had sailed to Mexico and were living on their boat docked at the local marina. As we left the safety of our guarded areas to traverse the rocky, dusty roads of the inner city, our driver pumped his disco CD up full blast --his intentions certainly celebratory -- and soon we were singing along.
With security guards leading the way and Santa standing upright in one of the trucks, it was a spectacle causing great delight. Children and parents came running from afar as we pulled into a vacant lot. Rudy, our leader, used his bullhorn to speak in Spanish, instructing the crowd to line up based on age and gender. Once the gifts (never enough), were all distributed, chicken, beans and rice were handed out by going door-to-door (more like blanket-to-blanket, since none of the homes had actual doors). More than once as we approached a house, we were told by its resident that they already had been given their chicken. We marveled at the honesty of these destitute people.
Francis, our Mazatlan friend, helped to organize this event. She and I had a few private moments to talk, and I asked her what Christmas plans she had for her family. "This is my Christmas," she answered, "for giving to others is as good as it gets."
A third highlight happened on Christmas Day. I was sitting in our condo's lobby when one of our employees sprinted by, smiling ear to ear. "Feliz Navidad, Eduardo," I said. Immediately he took my hands and repeated the salutation. I asked if he had been partying all night with his family -- a Mexican Christmas tradition -- but he said they were postponing it because he had this early morning shift. I told him I was sorry, but he quickly replied, "Oh, no, Senora LaRoche, I am fortunate to have this job. I love this job. I love coming to work. I love serving others."
Three days. Three separate events. Three incredible blessings, all honoring the intent of this Christmas season: Jesus Christ, the ultimate servant for each who believes.