A Shepherd's Christmas (#4)

Christmas is always a busy time for us. In addition to running The Game Loft we also do our busiest season of the year at All About Games. I hate to add anything else to the mix because I just get over-tired and crabby. I’m not quite Ebeneezer Scrooge or the Grinch but close.

Last year a family needed our help and we responded. We recruited a seeming battalion of church ladies from First Baptist Church of Belfast and St. Margaret’s Episcopal to bake, sew, teach, and buy for three kids and their mom. We hoped that a full Christmas would make up for the previous year when poverty and depression trumped the Christmas season and the kids got very little. We started out last year by taking the kids to “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” a play produced by the Maskers in Belfast. While there our friend Tom Foster took photos of the kids to share with their father in prison.

The play was a huge success especially with Laithe, age 8 at the time who had heard it read in school. The next week it wasn’t difficult to persuade Laithe to actually be in a nativity play so we trooped over to First Church for their live nativity. The participants were few so Ray and I were recruited to be a wise man and a shepherd’s grandmother. Laithe, a shepherd, was holding tight to a sheep puppet named Grace that he borrowed from one of the good ladies of St. Margaret’s Church. Laithe bathed in all the attention and while Ray escorted the Game Loft kids home I stayed for refreshments with Laithe.

They created the word “winsome” especially for Laithe. With his round face and unsophisticated manner he is charming without effort. He piled his plate with goodies from the reception area and used a dozen creamers to flavor his hot chocolate. Most of the adults had left by this time but a group of older women still manned the refreshment table. In the still room Laithe’s voice piped out saying, “You know, Patricia, someone here sure knows how to cook!” Since he had sampled every offering on the table all the ladies beamed with pride. He was right, of course, they were great cookies.

Then Alan Shumway of First Baptist said to Laithe, “If you would like to do this again you could come to my church on Christmas Eve and be a shepherd.” Laithe jumped at the chance. I was perhaps a little less enthusiastic. Christmas Eve is a very busy day at the store and the end of three solid weeks of extreme busy-ness. Laithe’s family lives out of town with no car so I knew my services would be needed for transportation if nothing else but I wanted time for myself, time to rest, time to decorate my own tree, time to listen to Christmas carols and go to my own church. I did not want to be a sheep in a Christmas pageant. Was that asking too much? I looked at Laithe who was experiencing warmth, a full stomach, fame, and true happiness and I was not proud of myself.

Then Laithe leaned over to me and said quite confidentially, “How old do you have to be to get to be Joseph?” He had a career track in mind and all I had was a bad attitude. “At least 13,” I said thinking that Joseph really should be as tall as Mary. “Patricia,” he asked, “would you come and see me in nativity plays until I can become Joseph?” Who am I to back down in the face of a miracle? Of course I agreed and now I’m on deck to watch or participate in the next year of nativity plays. On December 12 we will do it all again.

If running the Game Loft were only about finding a place for kids to play and giving them a hot meal it would be an easy job but we are really about making improvements in kids’ lives. We are making good memories that might erase some of the pain that so many of them experience every day. It is about helping the marginalized, the forgotten, the abused or abandoned, the bullies and the frightened to overcome their obstacles. It’s about setting the stage where miracles can happen.

I hope to see you at First Church UCC in Belfast this Friday at 5 PM. I hope that I am in the audience and not playing a sheep because some things are just beyond the call of duty.

Please consider a donation to The Game Loft. We are a 501(c) 3 tax deductible charity. Your gift will help change the lives of Maine kids in poverty.

Just in case you thought I was kidding about playing a sheep, here is a very unbecoming photo of me in my “woolies” in 2013.

Patricia Estabrook

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