I remember this story from my youth. I thought it a sad story. Like any young person I felt that people should never pass by someone in need. Of course, this was re-enforced by the Cree way of life. I remember the village Mistissini was back in the ’60s and ’70s. No way in until the ’70s and no electricity, running water or indoor toilets.
The windows of houses would glow with the light of Coleman lamps. The frost on those windows would make beautiful shimmering designs in the night. The community was such that you could hear laughter and talking as you walked by.
Passersby were always welcome to drop in, but would usually receive an invitation for tea or more if you were noticed. Some parties would seem to start spontaneously that way and before you knew it guitars would be playing and singers singing.
We seem to have lost that ability to have an open celebration where all were welcome. This upcoming holiday season always reminds me of “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen.
The Little Girl with the Matchsticks
It was New Year’s Eve, and a poor little girl was out on the cold streets selling matchsticks. She was hungry and freezing, with neither hat nor shoes. She was afraid to go home for her father would surely beat her as she had not sold any matchsticks that day.
In a nook between two buildings she tried to warm herself by lighting her matches. In the light of the first match she saw a hot iron stove. She then lit a second match and this time saw a fully laden dinner table with a cooked goose that came right toward her. It too disappeared as the match went out.
By the light of the third match she saw a beautiful Christmas tree lit with thousands of candles. The lights of the tree went higher and higher until she saw that they were the stars. One became a shooting star and she remembered her grandmother telling her that a shooting star means that a person has died and a soul gone to heaven.
Upon lighting the next match she saw her grandmother, the only person who ever loved her. Hoping to keep her grandmother as long as possible, she quickly lit the whole bunch of matches. Her grandmother then lifted her in her arms and they flew with joy and glory higher and higher and there was no cold, no hunger, no fear – they were with God.
The next morning her body was found with a smile upon her lips, frozen to death and with a burned out bunch of matches. “She wanted to warm herself!” people said. No one knew what beauty she had seen or with what glory she had gone with her grandmother into a joyous new year.
Too many times we pass by those who are like the little match girl. This is why in some First Nations communities the holidays are known as suicide season. Not having enough food or gifts for your loved ones is hard. If you are abused in any way, a time when everyone else seems to be so happy can be so hard.
I ask that everyone share this season, not just the food banks and gifts but the joy – especially the joy, share it as much as you can. Give what you can and you will find an even greater joy in that. Trust me on this.
If you feel alone in your problems share them with someone. A burden shared is easier to carry. Let’s all have a great holiday together with no one left out.