THE RE­QUEST

Activated - - NEWS - By Sa­man­tha Jones

It was my first Christ­mas in Taipei, Tai­wan, when I heard the Christ­mas clas­sic “Silent Night” sung in Chi­nese for the first time. It made a spe­cial im­pres­sion, and I re­mem­ber think­ing that I had to learn the words. The first line was fairly easy—after all, half of it is the song ti­tle—but be­yond that it got harder.

Even though I could only un­der­stand the most ba­sic words in Man­darin Chi­nese, two friends and I felt we couldn’t let our lack of vo­cab­u­lary de­ter us from shar­ing the Christ­mas spirit. Be­fore I knew it, we were pro­pelled into a busy sched­ule of Christ­mas ben­e­fit per­for­mances. The ten days lead­ing up to Christ­mas were packed with carol singing and song and dance per­for­mances.

My se­cond Christ­mas in Taipei, our voices bounced off the slick walls of some of the city’s trendi­est malls and rang down the stark cor­ri­dors of a de­ten­tion cen­ter for delin­quent boys. The ap­pre­ci­a­tion we re­ceived from the boys was touch­ing—thanks etched on each face for shar­ing with them the true mean­ing of Christ­mas. Pa­tients at the hos­pi­tals we per­formed at that year also thanked us for re­mem­ber­ing them. We dressed as clowns and brought smiles to the faces of the or­phans we vis­ited.

As I helped pass out do­nated toys to needy chil­dren, it oc­curred to me that God al­ways has the per­fect Christ­mas gift for ev­ery­one—ex­actly what He knows each one needs most at the time. I re­called homes for the el­derly, where the hugs from chil­dren soothed hearts that ached for their own ab­sent fam­i­lies. At a shel­ter for the poor, a load of as­sorted gifts in­cluded baby items that came as an an­swer to a young mother’s earnest prayers.

Then came my third Christ­mas in Taipei. By this time I had fi­nally learned “Silent Night” in Chi­nese, but since I was ac­com­pa­ny­ing our lit­tle singing group on the gui­tar, I

was out of the spot­light dur­ing our shows. We went from cen­ters for the dis­abled to hos­pi­tals and back again. Each time I played “Silent Night,” I re­mem­bered that lit­tle voice telling me to learn the words in Chi­nese. I won­dered why I had gone to all the trou­ble.

A few days be­fore Christ­mas, I was stand­ing in the lobby of the Yang Ming Hospi­tal, pluck­ing ab­sent­mind­edly at my gui­tar. Our show was over, and some of the oth­ers had gone into the wards to cheer up pa­tients who hadn’t been able to come to our per­for­mance. Some­one had to stay with our equip­ment, and that hap­pened to be me this time.

Then I saw him—an el­derly gen­tle­man, prob­a­bly in his late 70s. He smiled, and I smiled back. He mo­tioned for me to sit be­side him, and I eased my­self onto the bench, let­ting my gui­tar slide down to the ground be­hind me.

“Thank you … for com­ing here,” he said slowly. It took a mo­ment for me to re­al­ize he was speak­ing in English. I asked him if he had en­joyed the show, and we quickly switched to Man­darin when I re­al­ized he had ex­hausted his English vo­cab­u­lary.

He was sorry he hadn’t seen our show, he said, but had heard about our on­go­ing work at the hospi­tal and thought it was won­der­ful that we would come to his coun­try to do all this. He made a wide, sweep­ing ges­ture with his hands to ac­cen­tu­ate “all.”

Try­ing to keep the con­ver­sa­tion alive, I told him that I had come to the hospi­tal the year be­fore too.

“And you may come the next,” the old man replied in Man­darin, with a twin­kle in his eye, “but I won’t be here.”

I felt fool­ish when I re­al­ized that he wasn’t talk­ing about not be­ing at the hospi­tal. He didn’t ex­pect to live to see the next Christ­mas.

“If you like,” I stam­mered awk­wardly, “I can sing you a song now. I’m only one per­son and I don’t know many songs, but…”

A look of sat­is­fac­tion came across his wrin­kled face, and he gave a sigh. “There is one song I would like to hear,” he said.

I cringed at the thought of hav­ing to meet a spe­cific re­quest. I would hate to dis­ap­point him. And then my eyes fell on the piece of pa­per he was hold­ing in his hands. It was the gospel tract I had given him when I first sat down. On the front was an il­lus­tra­tion of a present wrapped with rib­bons and the words “Christ­mas Gifts for You.”

And then I un­der­stood. Through all those toys and other presents, the laughs, the tears, and the en­cour­age­ment we shared with oth­ers along the way, God was bring­ing to each heart the gift they most needed. I just had to be will­ing to be His hands and feet, His eyes, His ears, His mouth. Sud­denly I knew it was go­ing to be okay. I smiled bravely, even be­fore he fin­ished his re­quest. “Please,” he said, “sing ‘Silent Night.’”

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