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Christmas Eve, 2001

My dear Little Smile family,

I'm sitting here in snowy, wintry Bavaria and thinking of you all. If I turn my watch on five hours, it is now six o'clock in the evening in Little Smile. That is the best time of day somehow. If I am completely quiet, I do believe that I can hear you. Just now you are performing plays or sketches and songs. No doubt Erandi is playing the organ. Maheshi and Niluka will definitely be dancing. And many of you are singing. Namal will put on his smile again, after his performance. I can imagine you all so clearly. And even if you can't see me, I am there - I've sent my spirit to you.

We are celebrating Christmas Eve in Germany today. Birgit has no doubt told you what happened long, long ago. I would like to tell you a story too and would be grateful if Bandula could translate it:

When I was a boy, five years old, I rehearsed for some sort of play at the kindergarten. A boy and a girl go from door to door dressed up as Mary and Joseph. They knock at each door and ask to be let into the warmth. Joseph begs politely and pleads with the people to take in his wife who is pregnant and due to give birth soon. But everyone turns them away. I was given the role of the man who sends the begging couple on their way because they don't have any money. Everything was sung and I still know all the words and the tune, as if it were only yesterday. When I come in January, I can sing it to you.

But let me continue with the story: The first man had no room and sent Mary and Joseph away. I was the second, who asked how much they could pay. I had no trouble at all with my role. I had learnt both the text and the tune well. Then on Christmas Eve came the performance during the children's mass. We were all very nervous. We were all anxious not to make any mistakes in front of so many people. Mary and Joseph were not allowed in at the first door and then trotted along to me, a few metres further on. And then it suddenly dawned on me what it was that I had to do. I had to send Mary, who was about to give birth to the Christ child, out into the cold. But I couldn't do that! I couldn't make a sound. The girl who played Mary prompted me. And Joseph prompted me. But I wanted to let them both in, not send them away! This wasn't what was supposed to happen, though. I guess everyone must have felt ashamed for the silly little boy who forgot his lines and brought the performance to a standstill. And I felt ashamed as well - standing there with a red face in front of all those people. I eventually stuttered and asked Mary and Joseph for money and finally sent them on their way after all.

Now, today, you - each and every one of you - are all my children and I open the door and my heart to you. Because I didn't have a house that I could let you into, Bandula and I have built houses. But because love means more than just opening the door and love always means caring about the person whom you love, we have also built a school, a workshop and your playground. You are not guests here, you are Little Smile, you are my family, my children. And I love you a lot.

Quite a lot of people here in Germany, some whom you don't know yet, will be thinking of you when they stand under their decorated Christmas trees today. Manuel, Marco, Sumalee and Elke will definitely be amongst them.

I'm sure that Birgit can tell you what we mean when we sincerely wish someone a happy Christmas.

I wish you all, my children,

Bandula and his family,

your matrons, Chitra, Shantamalar, Darshani and Damajanti,

the house mothers, Indrani, Dibi, Lila, Dami - and our Sia

from the bottom of my heart a very Happy Christmas!

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