Our understanding of miracles doesn't have to be of some grand event, maybe just a little everyday moment of realization, a bright spot of clarity when you've been touched by another's warmth.
We had just returned from dinner and a movie with friends and, as usual, we first checked the answering machine. My 85-year-old mother gave a rambling account that went on forever. But her tone was different. It was good news for a change. She couldn't believe that she had been the recipient of such good fortune.
After days of being trapped in her little home, she ventured out to buy a few groceries. She didn't realize that this establishment accepted only debit cards, and she had no idea what her PIN was. Without her checkbook or cash, she was so unnerved at the checkout that the person behind her generously offered to pay her bill.
Embarrassed, yet grateful, Mom accepted the woman's offer but tried doggedly to get her address so she could send a reimbursement. The woman wouldn't hear of it. She simply asked that Mom pray for her ill niece and wished her a Merry Christmas.
Mom's daily wish, up until now, was to win the lottery so she can buy a nicer place, have more spending money, send us all on vacation, buy the great-grandkids cars and all the typical stuff grandmas think about. But this morning, she told me that she did win it.
Earlier the same day, I took my granddaughter to the local church-turned gift shop to see the most authentic-looking Santa ever. She decided that this year she would be fearful of the big man in the red suit, so she stubbornly refused to go into his tent.
I then noticed a group of preteens, atop a 6-foot snow drift, waving their sign to encourage shoppers to cross the street and purchase some goodies from the bake sale they had going on. They were very boisterous and determined in their efforts. The blustery weather and distracted shoppers didn't seem to dampen their spirit, though.
Seeing very few customers enter their doors, and trying to put some distance between my urgings to sit on Santa's lap, little Claire and I crossed the street and bought some homemade baked goods, paid double the purchase price and enjoyed the hot chocolate and cookie even more because of the appreciation on the faces of these kids.
Trying one more time to accomplish what I went there for, we went back into the tent, where Santa worked hard to get my little one to respond. He and his helper were the most patient pair ever. They showed no signs of giving up on this reluctant child, and were genuinely delighted when she finally offered her list to Santa and smiled at him.
Before our evening out, our neighbor saw us struggling with the accumulation of the snowplow's leftovers at the edge of the street and waved us away so he could clear it up in a sweep of his truck's plow.
I thought about all the snow that fell, all the problems it created and all the good things we heard and witnessed about people helping others.
It's a miracle of small gestures creating big rewards -- the warmth of the human spirit. Is it always there and we just don't notice? I think it is. We don't need a snow event or a holiday to witness it. We need to just look around and see that it's happening all around us, every day.
Jessica Cronenberger, who lives in West Seneca, witnesses people helping others all the time.