Christmas and the School Crossing Guard

Every Christmas I recall a certain school crossing guard I saw years ago when I was living in Detroit, Michigan. I never met her personally, but I saw her almost every day as she ushered the children safely across the street at a local Catholic elementary school. I remember in particular an incident that occurred about two weeks before Christmas.

It was about 2:30 in the afternoon. Shortly before dismissal time. And it was pouring rain. As I waited for the light to change I spotted the schoolschool crossing guard crossing guard.  She was wearing big boots, jeans, a bright orange vest, and a yellow rain hat. And in her right hand she was holding a big red STOP sign. But here’s the fun part. She wasn’t standing at the corner in her usual spot. Instead she was standing inside the life-size Christmas creche in front of the church!  Yes, there she was standing next to St. Joseph—who didn’t seem to mind at all that she was there. Apparently, while waiting for the dismissal bell to ring, the woman had used her common sense and had taken refuge from the rain in the manger.

Seeing her there, I laughed out loud. What a source of inspiration she was to me! First, her big red STOP sign struck me. It was as if she was telling all passersby to STOP! STOP your racing around for a minute, STOP your worrying, STOP your complaining about the weather, STOP your moaning about all the work you have to do. STOP and remember the real reason for this season: the birth of this little baby boy.

In addition, the school guard was, by her very placement, physically demonstrating what many spiritual writers (most notably St. Ignatius) encouraged us to do: to nativity set outdoorsput ourselves into the scripture stories, that is, to immerse ourselves into the ambiance and the action. As you reflect on the Christmas story, for example, put yourself into the manger. What do you see and hear? How do you feel. Or be Mary, be Joseph, be one of the shepherds, or be even one of the sheep. Imagine their thoughts, their feelings. What would their prayer be like? The school crossing guard had literally put her whole self directly into the manger that day. St Ignatius would have been proud of her!

And finally, the school guard looked at ease in the manger next to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the sheep. She looked as if she belonged there. How at ease are we with the great stories of our Christian faith? Do we know them? Do they belong to us? Do we belong to them? But the guard wouldn’t remain in that shelter for very long. For in a few minutes the dismissal bell would ring, the children would come pouring out of the school, and she would begin her work, her ministry, if you will: helping the children to cross the street in safety. (Talk about a pro-life job!)

At Christmas, God calls us to the manger to adore and reflect on the great mystery of Jesus’ birth. But we don’t stay at that manger, for Christmas is only the beginning of the story of Jesus’ life on earth. So too adoration and prayer are only the beginning of our faith. They must lead to serving others, to loving, to helping others negotiate safely the busy streets and major intersections of daily living.

christmas merry sign


I’ll conclude this week’s reflection with “Silent Night” sung by the German band called “Gregorian.” This group performs Gregorian chant sometimes blending their music with versions of pop and rock songs. This version of “Silent Night” is very traditional and sung in English and German. It’s from a live concert—hence the applause at the end.. (I guess it is appropriate to clap for Christmas!) The accompanying photos were done by Christine Combaluzier  whom I believe is from France. Consider this my Christmas card to each one of you!






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  1. Lu G on December 22, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Thank You Sister Melannie, “Silent Night” was so beautiful! I hope you have the very best Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

  2. Kathleen Magiera on December 22, 2014 at 6:21 am

    May you have a blessed Christmas Sr. Melannie. Beautiful reflection to slow us down for a few minutes.


  3. Sunnie Poplar on December 22, 2014 at 8:16 am

    What I loved most about this reflection today was your reaction to seeing that crossing guard standing inside the manger. How many people do you suppose thought she had no business desecrating such a holy symbol, were upset that she had such nerve, etc. My prayer for all of us this New Year is that we learn to find something positive in our daily encounters. That is what Sunflower Seeds helps me to see.
    We will bury my 101 yr old mother in law today and I find comfort knowing she will spend Christmas united with her husband, son and many siblings.
    Thank you Sister for your loving insights. God bless you and a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on December 22, 2014 at 1:24 pm

      Dear Sunnie,

      My sympathy to you and your family for the death of your mother-in-law. I will certainly remember your family in special prayer. I’m sure many of my readers will do the same. God bless you! Sr. Melannie

  4. mary james on December 22, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I loved the crossing guard symbolism. Thank you! I have put myself
    in Scripture often, but never at Christmas–don’t know why, but I think
    I have a new “tradition” Thanks much!

  5. Barbara d'Artois on December 22, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Thank you so much for today’s beautiful reflection, Sister Melannie and for the wonderful rendition of “Silent Night.” Thank you for all of your thought-provoking blog posts which are truly gift to your readers. May the Lord shower you with special blessings as you celebrate the Feast of his Nativity and may you continue to be his voice and his inspiration to his people. Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

  6. Karen on December 22, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Love this reflection! This story also made me think of the manger as a place of refuge from the elements, just as Mary & Joseph found refuge there.
    Pairing it with “Silent Night” is genius. Too often Christmas is “running around like crazy” night, or “last minute shopping” night, or “fighting with the relatives” night or “slaving away in the kitchen” night.
    When I was a girl (and we had enough snow in NE Ohio), I used to go cross country skiing on Christmas Eve. I still remember the beautiful silence of the woods and the brisk beauty of the snow. Thank you Sr Melannie & hope you and your family and all the SND families have a Blessed Christmas.

  7. Sue on December 22, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Thank you Sr. Melannie for this beautiful rendition of “Silent Night” and the story of the school crossing guard. I always look forward to your Monday “Sunflower Seeds”. I appreciate and thank you for your thoughts and words which help bring us closer to Our Lord.
    Thank you, God bless you, and Merry Christmas Sr. Melannie!
    Sue Sandberg, Oswego, IL.

  8. Joy on December 22, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Thank you for this beautiful gift….
    Merry Christmas to you……

  9. Suzanne Sayer on December 22, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    Beautiful reflection. I wonder if any of your thoughts entered the crossing guard’s mind or if she just wanted shelter. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Thank for for brightening my Mondays!

  10. Peggy Svoboda on December 22, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    Hi Cousin Dolly,
    I loved this reflection and the Silent Night recording. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed with all of the preparations for Christmas, and needed that image if the STOP sign.
    I hope you and your family have a Merry and Blessed Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year!

  11. Nona Higgins on December 22, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you for “Sunflower Seeds”. You take the simplest situations, Sister, and inspire your readers to action, not just contentment. Thank you for sharing your gifts each week. God bless you and Merry Christmas!

  12. Joanne Bennardo on December 22, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Dear Sister Melannie,

    Thank you for bringing God’s quiet to break through whatever noise and anxiety is bidding for my attention. In the quiet is prayer that whispers of God’s ever-present, reassuring love. Through the din and clatter, past the concerns and chaos, it echoes the calmness of that first Silent Night.

    May God touch you with His Joyous blessings of Christmas.

    Joanne Bennardo

  13. Linda casey on December 22, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you for this awesome story and the beautiful song. It made my day!

  14. Kathleen Cole on December 22, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    I loved the reflection of putting myself into the manger scene, but then also, that of not staying there. I need to move into each day to serve and to do ministry.
    Do you facilitate retreats, or do parish missions, Sr. Melannie? Our parish is only a couple hours from Chardon, and we would love to welcome you sometime!

  15. Cathy Baier on December 22, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    Days are dark and dreary, full of rain and storms and then….the baby Jesus comes into our midst! Glory to God!
    Blessed Christmas to you Sr Melannie!

  16. mary jo Ebner on December 22, 2014 at 11:09 pm

    What a beautiful inspiring reflection. Thank you again

  17. Jean Shott on December 22, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    You have always seemed so full of joy – smiling whenever I see you – and your writing reflects that. You have a gift for bringing us up and seeing
    “Son-shine”. Thank you. Have a merry Christmas and happy, healthy New Year.

  18. Ed Johnson on December 23, 2014 at 4:36 am

    Sr. Melanie,
    What a wonderful story….memories from childhood. I am currently on an eight month “Long Retreat” (meet weekly) at our parish based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. So you can imagine how this story connected with me personally. Our readings over these last several days help us accompany Joseph and Mary on their arduous journey to Bethlehem, and we are right in the midst of the Nativity! Thank you (each week) for your words of faith and encouragement! And the music with this post…..Stunning. Merry Christmas! Peace and Blessings.
    Ed Johnson……Longwood, Florida

  19. Joan Campagna on December 24, 2014 at 4:15 am

    Sr Melannie-Thank you for the message! It is 4 AM and I accompanied my dog outside at his insistence). Read your post and listened to the video under a clear Miami sky and felt grateful that there are still people in the world who see the beauty in simplicity. I will STOP and enjoy God’s coming into the world.
    Thank you
    Elyria Catholic grad 1983:)

  20. Alfredo Jesús Rios Sánchez on December 26, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Thank You Melannie, Merry Christmas to you!

  21. Stan Davisson on December 27, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Thank you for starting my weekend off in the inspiring way you do each week. I like to read it early Saturday when there are many readers’ comments. The video was wonderful. Teri and I are parishioners at the former St. Felicitas. We’re proud to claim you as an alumna, even if the school is gone.

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