Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Orange Nailed It

Before you think that I got so bored I started throwing fruit around and finally hit a bull’s eye, let me inform you that Orange is one of my students in my sophomore English Major class. I’ll tell you what she nailed in a few.

My efforts center on trying to find out what the kids know about Christmas. Their final exam question was: What is your idea (understanding) of Christmas? I got some very revealing answers.

A lot of the kids know about Jesus, and that Christmas heralds the day of Jesus’ birth. Some are fervently moved by the Spirit, such as Anna and Julin; others just view the subject as academic. They have no roots in Christianity, only knowledge of it.

I did learn that, in China it is traditional to give an apple as a gift. It symbolizes the wish on the part of the giver for health, prosperity and long life for the recipient. I did not know that, and that is perhaps the most beautiful enumeration I heard all day, save one: Orange’s. But I’m still not ready to reveal what she said.

One very surprising answer came from Ray, my most wayward student. He only comes to class half the time, but when he is there his English is stellar. I suspect he is bored with my antics and, because his level of English far surpasses that of his fellow students, he does not want to wait around as they hem or haw while giving an answer to a simple question.

However, he did show up for his final and he had an excellent answer to the question. He is the only one that advanced the theory that, when Christianity was founded, many of the pagan holidays were incorporated into Christianity to ease the transition from paganism. Thus the Winter Solstice celebration became the birth of Jesus. Again, his view, like so many other students, is purely academic. The spirit of Christmas is completely overlooked in this historically correct but spiritually devoid answer. In fact, he didn’t even say what his idea of Christmas is. He just quoted what he researched on the Internet.

But Orange… she made me cry. This cripplingly shy wisp of a girl, deeply focused and highly intellectual just blew me away with her answer. With all of the other students I listened critically, she forced me to listen with my heart. Among other things, she said:

Many people think that Christmas is about Jesus or about shopping, but I think Christmas is about giving from your heart. You must feel that the gift you are giving is the only gift you can give, so that you can give with sincerity.

This poor child looked stricken as the tears streamed down my face. I’m not sure if she thought she had done something wrong or if she was concerned that I had suddenly taken ill but I know my tears shocked her. After she was finished with her carefully rehearsed answer I told her the reason I was crying: her words mirror my sentiment. Her halting speech reflected my beliefs exactly.

I threw my arms around her and drew her to me; it was the most natural thing in the world to hug this precious child who understands what Christmas is all about. After this genuine bonding, during which I felt her fearful shivering subside, I asked permission to share her views with the rest of the class, next time we meet. She is honored to have her words and thoughts presented to the group, and quite relieved that she will not be the one presenting them.

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. Isaiah 11-6.

Could this little child be the one to lead her class mates to a new understanding of Christmas? Could her thoughts and words help marry the commercialism of Chinese Christmas with the spirituality of the Season in the minds and hearts of her fellow students?

We’ll soon find out: this group meets again tomorrow.

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