A Skeptic’s Christmas
by Lee Strobel
A family’s love for the child in the manger spurs a spiritual journey
The Chicago Tribune newsroom was eerily quiet on the day before Christmas. As I sat at my desk, my mind kept wandering back to a family I had encountered a month earlier while I was working on a series of articles about Chicago’s poorest people.
The Delgados – sixty-year-old Perfecta and her granddaughters Lydia and Jenny – had been burned out of their roach-infested tenement and were now living in a tiny two-room apartment on the West Side. As I walked in, I couldn’t believe how empty it was. There was no furniture, no rugs, nothing on the walls – only a small kitchen table and one handful of rice. They were virtually devoid of possessions.
In fact, eleven-year-old Lydia and thirteen-year-old Jenny owned only one short-sleeved dress each, plus one thin sweater between them. When they walked the half-mile to school through the biting cold, Lydia would wear the sweater for part of the distance and then hand it to her shivering sister, who would wear it the rest of the way.
But despite their poverty and the painful arthritis that kept Perfecta from working, she still talked confidently about her faith in Jesus. She was convinced he had not abandoned them. I never sensed despair or self-pity in her home; instead, there was a gentle feeling of hope and peace. Although I was an atheist at the time, she had my complete attention.
I wrote an article about the Delgados, and then I quickly moved on to other assignments. But as I sat at my desk on Christmas Eve, I continued to wrestle with this irony: here was a family that had nothing but faith and yet seemed happy, while I had everything I needed materially but lacked faith – and inside I felt as empty and barren as their apartment.
I walked over to the city desk to sign out a car. I decided to drive over to West Homer Street and see how the Delgados were doing.
What Jesus Would Do
When Jenny opened the door, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Tribune readers had responded to my article by showering the Delgados with a treasure trove of gifts – roomfuls of furniture, appliances, and rugs; a lavish Christmas tree with piles of wrapped presents underneath; carton upon bulging carton of food; and a dazzling selection of clothing, including dozens of warm winter coats, scarves, and gloves. On top of that, they donated thousands of dollars in cash.
But as surprised as I was by this outpouring, I was even more astonished by what my visit was interrupting: Perfecta and her granddaughters were getting ready to give away much of their newfound wealth. When I asked Perfecta why, she replied…
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