Finding packages on our doorsteps this time of year is no surprise. But the small box postmarked Ohio that arrived last Friday bore a wealth inside that belied its size. And it wasn't diamonds.
A handwritten note was tucked in beside the small gift. I read the note and handed it to my husband with tears in my eyes.
"Wow," he said.
The note was from Rosann Buccieri, the widow of a World War II veteran. During the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division's recent deployment to Afghanistan, she had adopted Sgt. Agrillo Adams through a program I coordinate.
Sgt. Adams is young, single, and from Brooklyn, N.Y. Rosann is a native and lifelong resident of Ohio.
The adoption in itself wasn't particularly noteworthy, except that Rosann's care packages, letters, and emails were the only ones Sgt. Adams received for nine long months.
Even that's not exceptional -- there are many soldiers who go into combat for our country with support from no one back home.
What's unusual is the love -- yes, the love -- that took root between Rosann and Sgt. Adams.
They've never met face-to-face. Yet in the note inside the box, Rosann thanked me for "the wonderful, special adopted son who I love so much."
He calls her "Mom."
Soon after Sgt. Adams returned from Afghanistan, the Army sent him to the Advanced Leaders Course at the Center of Excellence, Fort Lee, Virginia.
He and Rosann spoke often on the phone during the many weeks of his grueling course. She encouraged him, coached him through a severe chest cold that threatened to derail his graduation and kept his name in her prayers.
He called her on Dec. 20 to say that he had graduated among the top members of his class.
"He told me he was so happy, and I was the driving force behind him for doing so well," Rosann's note said.
The news of Sgt. Adams' achievement, delivered with Rosann's joy and pride, could not have come at a more fitting season.
It is the time of year when Christians observe the first glimmer of God's intention to prove tangibly his everlasting love for humankind -- unearned, unconditional, asking only for faith in its truth.
It's been 2000 years now and such love still shows itself in unexpected situations.
Don't we all need one person to care about us, to be faithful in loving us no matter what?
Can Providence not grant us that in silent, wondrous mystery?
IN THE HEART
When Agrillo called Rosann to tell her he had graduated, she asked, "Do you remember what Dec. 22 is?"
"Yes, I do. It's the day you emailed me last year, asking to adopt me," Agrillo replied.
"I was on the plane for Afghanistan, feeling pretty down."
Rosann said she was shocked that he remembered.
Love came down at Christmas.
It started in the heart of a widow in Ohio and settled on a solitary soldier in Afghanistan.
They both say it will last forever.
Carol Megathlin of Savannah is the founder and coordinator of the Adopt-A-Soldier program in Savannah. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.