Yesterday we took over a Christmas tree that we had cut down in the Mount Hood National forest to our Sudan friends in north Portland.
They are refugees, a family of 9, who live in north Portland apartments.
The mom, Tifiso, was so excited to get her tree into her home. She has called me three times over the past two weeks to ask when we were going to be bringing her Christmas tree. I think she wanted something bright in her life, something to bring light into her life. A recent 4-day stay in the hospital and diagnosis of an illness has been hard on this mom of 7 between the ages of 3 and 16. Tifiso asks for very little so for her to keep asking me when we were coming with her tree told me something.
With the recent cold spell, the tree was actually frozen in our creek and we had to wait for a thaw, which it finally did.
So, last night, our family and a couple of our children’s friends brought the Christmas tree and ornaments and lights to the Sudan refugee family. We told the family to all be home, that this is a time of celebration, tradition, we’ll make it a party.
My husband arrived a few minutes before we did (we had stopped at the Christmas ships beforehand) and he set up the tree on the stand we bought them. This is the third year we have gotten the family a Christmas tree and I love how this is becoming a tradition for our family and theirs.
Then, we broke out the ornaments. Our 6-year-old Augustin had picked out some ornaments for them, and he insisted on colorful ones. Bright, neon colorful ones, so we brought those along. My twins’ friend Daryl helped put a hanger on each of the ornaments. But first we got the lights on the tree.
Then, each of the kids began hanging ornaments on the tree and our Sudan friends had two of their friends over, and I asked those two kids if they have their tree up yet and they said no and I asked them if they are going to get at tree up and they said, “Probably not”. And those friends were helping us decorate the tree as well.
It made me realize the value of tradition and putting up a tree together and the importance of having a tree during the Christmas season. How Tifiso, mother of 7, wanted her tree up so badly.
I glanced at Tifiso
watching her tree being decorated and she just stood there quietly and I thought of Mary in the Bible and how she silently sat watching when people were talking about her son Jesus. The verses are in Luke 2:18-19- “And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them, But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
As Mary, Tifiso looked so calm and reflective as if she was pondering. I wondered what she was thinking about. Her life has not been easy. She is a refugee from Sudan who is now in a country where she understands very little of the language and the culture and she has health issues and here she has 7 children and she told me in as much as I could understand with our language barrier, that she is overwhelmed with raising her kids.
The Christmas Tree was decorated pretty quickly and each of the children helped and the laughter and the chatter. One said, “oh, those ornaments are too close together,” and another added, “don’t put the same colored ornaments so close together,” and it was just fun watching the children work on this project together. And the Sudan kids had painted some homemade ornaments at a craft fair and they added those to the tree and they were trying to figure out what to do about a star and we took pictures in front of the tree, a before and after shot.
Then when all the ornaments were on, we turned off all of the lights in the apartment and the glow of the tree warmed the room.
There was something so beautiful about the moment. The simplicity of this Christmas tree inside this apartment. The simple joy that a Christmas tree brought to this family. There were no other Christmas decorations in the apartment and it stood out and was admired by all.
I thought of other homes with perfect Christmas decorations and matching orna ments and the house all tinseled and elegant and gorgeous. I have heard of families where the mom does all of the decorating while the kids are in school so that there is no mess, but perhaps something is missing.
When my 6-year-old wanted to buy the neon colored ornaments, I did not want to as it is not my style, but he likes bright colors, so I got them for him.
For this Sudan family gathered together with ours, it seemed like such a beautiful moment. Maybe the simplicity of it and especially knowing how much it meant to the family. Just to get their tree, the only decorations they would have this Christmas.
And, how long Tifiso had waited for her tree.
And finally got it, then pondered over it. In her heart.