what I wish for Christmas
I had to do a little shopping today, unexpectedly, and I was not happy about it at all. I had purposefully spent 5 hours last evening traveling from store to store browsing Christmas sections to avoid having to go back out today. Saturdays during Christmas season don’t make me happy. And I avoid it at all costs. But today I was forced into the madness, and I was struck yet again by the lack of humanity that can exist during this season. A store clerk was actually shocked when I asked how his day was progressing. “You’re the only person who’s spoken to me,” he said. “Everyone has been talking on cell phones and never looking up to see me.” I probably shouldn’t be surprised by the behavior of people, and yet I genuinely am every time I hear things like this. It saddens me that, during a season meant for good will, people cannot take even a moment to acknowledge a stranger, cannot greet one another with smiles and polite words. Everyone is so busy trying to manage their own agendas that basic kindness is lost.
I was not happy to be out and about today. Shopping was the last thing I wanted to do. But it was necessary, and there was no reason for me to be unpleasant to other people just because my day had been rearranged. I’ve heard this kind of rescheduling called a “divine appointment” — the unexpected (and sometimes unwelcome) shuffling of our plans to accomplish God’s purposes. I hope to always think of it this way, and especially during this overly busy season. It takes no effort at all to be polite. It doesn’t hurt us to notice the people around us. And kindness should be automatic. Why not treat people as you hope to be treated? It’s important! It’s necessary, as we all share one earth and all are equal in the eyes of God. My challenges and less joyful moments do not give me cause to ignore common courtesy. There are no good excuses. No, not one.
The highlight of my day occurred while bustling around to finish my task quickly. I was still a bit saddened by the store clerk’s words, and my mind was filled with all the ways that we can hurt each other without even realizing it. I sat in a parking lot waiting for a car to back out and leave a space for me to fill, and no less than four cars came down the aisle and whipped around the reversing car, causing the driver to stop again and again before pulling out. Again, I was shocked. Are we really so busy and in such a hurry that we cannot wait for a car to pull out? The driver couldn’t see how many were waiting in the aisle. He was doing his best to pull out. But person after person forced him to stop. When I finally was able to take his parking spot and begin walking toward the store, I came upon a young woman trying to pull out of another space. She was in a tight spot with not enough room to maneuver out straight. I noticed a slight look of concern on her face as she tried to gauge the distance from her car to the bumper in front of her, so I stopped walking and waved my hand to guide her forward. She then reversed and began to inch back toward another car, and I guided her in this, as well. Two more times I helped her inch forward and backward to clear the parked cars, and with each successive moment the two of us developed broad smiles. We looked each other in the eyes and shared a chuckle at the situation. When she was clear and able to drive forward out of the aisle, I gave her a thumbs up. She responded with a wide smile and short laugh, nodding her head in appreciation. We didn’t speak a word, but we shared a moment of fun. I never once thought about my schedule, and I never even noticed the line of cars that had pulled up behind her. I didn’t care what those people were thinking. I found the moment to be great fun and so rewarding. A shared moment with a stranger took all of my sadness away.
People will continue to be rude and indifferent. They will continue focusing on their own little lists without acknowledging the people who are serving them. They will continue to miss the joy of unexpected moments. I wish it were different. I wish that everyone would shop with their heads up and cell phones put away. I wish people would help each other in big and small ways. I wish for acts of kindness that surprise the recipients. It’s what I would want for myself, and so it’s what I choose to do for others. That is the real meaning of CHRISTmas.
Documenting the days of Christmas was inspired by Ali Edwards’s December Daily project and the Holidays in Hand class by Jessica Sprague.
Posted on 5 December 2009, in Stories I Tell and tagged How God Works, I wish, kindness, Life is Daily, Life Unabridged, missional life, my Christmas experience, things to know about me. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.