The audience looked up expectantly to the stage in the auditorium dining room. I stood there, knees knocking, stage fright making me close to speechless (a rare occurrence as my friends can affirm). Regardless, this was my debut public speaking engagement more than 20 years ago, and I was introduced as a first-time storyteller.
I somehow squeeked, sputtered and hiccupped entry into my oration of The Littlest Angel, a classic Christmas children’s book. This delightful story continues to live in several book versions enhanced by various illustrators and, through the years, also performed on stage as well as retold in animated movies.
Speaking from the heart – advisedly the most powerful approach in communicating – I related the essence of this heartwarming tale about a very small child’s attempts to adapt to his untimely arrival in the world of Spirit, and being called upon to offer a gift for the newborn Christ Child.
Regardless of one’s religious faith or lack thereof, this story – trust me – is magical in conveying what is important about giving instead of trying to impress by the choice of gifts. In doing so, The Littlest Angel conveys the tenderness of humility, generosity, love, and appreciation.
For the gift from the littlest Angel was not expensive nor gift wrapped, indeed, not even store bought at all. Nor was it based upon the wee Angel feeling obliged to perform yet unkindled artistic talents. He bequeathed, instead, his treasures from the earthly realm of Nature, collected in a rather inelegant tiny wooden box. The specialness of the gift-giving is two-fold – the littlest Angel gives away his most precious possessions, and the “Hand of God” selects that particular gift because of the qualities expressed in the giving.
Indeed, the joy in knowing a gift is well-received is a bonus of the joy in giving and, more so, because it ought not to be anticipated. What humbled me, for example, following the completion of relating The Littlest Angel, was not only the enthusiastic applause. Yet, moreover, a lovely voice flew to me on wings of clarity and grace from one of the listeners, saying: “I think you did a very good job.” That remains the most memorable moment of receiving acknowledgment through my entire life.
The audience were residents of L”Arche Daybreak, in Richmond Hill, Ontario, the first L’Arche community established in Canada, founded by Jean Vanier in the mid-1960s. Vanier, a Canadian philosopher/theologian, was at the forefront of de-institutionalizing people who had developmental disabilities. Today, 137 L’Arche communities exist in 40 countries.
The following excerpt from the L’Arche Charter, online in Wikipedia, expresses what I suggest is the core message of Christmas and other spiritual traditions. This message is timeless, universal, and definitely speaks to the cross-cultural healing needed today:
“In a divided world, L’Arche wants to be a sign of hope. Its communities, founded on covenant relationships between people of differing intellectual capacity, social origin, religion and culture, seek to be signs of unity, faithfulness and reconciliation.”
For more information about the transformative philosophy and practices in L’Arche communities, go to http://www.larche.ca/en/jean_vanier/the_story_of_larche.
Blessings to everyone, for peace, joy and, most of all, love, through this holiday season.