Stories have the power to open us to the LOVE which we call God. A story’s ability to open our eyes to LOVE has been true since the “Once upon a time” days of our childhood, through to the “Way back when,” stories handed down from one generation to the next. I don’t exactly remember when or where I first heard this particular LOVE story. I do know that the depth of LOVE which this story reveals opens us to the LOVE which lives in, with, and through each of us.
Way back when, World War II had just ended, and refugees were herded into camps until the world could figure out what to do with the millions of displaced people in it, LOVE was revealed. Back then, refugee camps were filled to overflowing with children who’d lost their families during the war. Apparently, there was this little boy in a camp in France. The little boy’s name has long since been lost to me. So, I’ll call him Andre, a French name derived from the word for “man” for Andre could be any little boy. Andre couldn’t have been more than about seven years old and he could barely remember the family he lost almost three years before the war ended. He’d been living in the refugee camp, more of an orphanage really, for almost a year. A few nuns, who never could scrap together enough money to feed the children properly, ran the camp. But they did their best and the children were, after all was said and done, lucky to be alive.
The children hardly noticed that Christmas was approaching until one of the nuns announced that a neighbour had promised to come by the orphanage on Christmas Eve to drop off a sack full of oranges. Andre had only a vague memory of an orange actually is. The year before a stranger had shared an orange with him and he remembered the taste of the tiny sections of his share of the orange that oozed precious juice down his half-starved throat. Andre spent the days leading up to Christmas Eve dreaming of having a whole orange of his very own. He thought about the smell of the orange. He dreamed of peeling the orange, and carefully considered whether or not to devour each and every section of the orange all at once, or whether he should divide it and save a section or two for Christmas morning.
When Christmas Eve arrived, the children were so excited as the nuns did what they could to bring some Christmas cheer to the camp. When the neighbour arrived, there was so much jostling for position that little Andre found himself at the end of a very long queue. He strained to see the treasure that awaited him and sure enough the aroma of oranges began to waft Andre’s way. As campmates danced their oranges around the room, Andre saw the neighbour’s expression begin to change. The neighbour looked so very sad when he began to deliver the shattering news to Andre that all the oranges were gone. The neighbour was trying to apologize when Andre shot from the room and ran all the way to his dormitory and flung himself on his bed and began to sob and sob, and sob.
In the midst of his grief, little Andre didn’t hear the other children come into the dormitory. As his body heaved and his sobs robbed him of his breath, Andre didn’t feel the tap on his shoulder. It was the smell of orange which finally caught his attention. As Andre raised his head from his pillow, he caught sight of the little girl’s outstretched hand. On her palm lay a peeled orange, it was made up of wedges saved from the oranges of the other children. Each child had donated a wedge. Together, they had created the most beautiful, tangy, juicy orange which Andre ever tasted in his 93 years of savoring oranges on Christmas Eve.
LOVE oozes, drips, and pungently presents itself in, with, through and around each one of us. Savour the LOVE which quenches our thirst for life. Embody that LOVE for the thirsty ones of the world.
May the HOLY ONE who IS LOVE continue to live and move in, with, through, and beyond you and yours during these challenging times.