Traditional Christmas tunes flooded the living room, threatening to interrupt the flow of my pen as I tried to sing along and write at the same time.
I re-adjusted my eyes and stopped my pen just before ending the sentence We just wanted to wish you a Merry–with– did you know?
Finishing the notes, I passed them to my partner in crime/better gift-wrapper as he tucked them inside, taped up the sides on each of the crisp packages and set all but two underneath Luce the Spruce.
Of course, as I set off on errands the next morning, I failed to grab the one allotted for my car… and was painfully reminded of my neglect as I drove by a gentleman sitting on the curb behind Publix, clutching a cardboard sign. As I passed, I breathed a prayer urging him to stay there for the next half hour, simultaneously avoiding eye contact out of guilt over my forgetfulness.
I finished my errand as soon as I could and approached the stoplight before my turn back into the grocery store with pent up eagerness. I peered around the corner anxiously hoping he was still there.
Despite his head hanging low near his knees, I could see his baseball cap peeping over the slight hill, revealing him to not even have moved in the last 45 minutes. I had to pass him once more before I could retrieve the package, but this time, I turned to him and gave a smile, silently urging him once more not to go anywhere… just for the next four minutes.
I booked it up the apartment stairs, grabbed one of the packages, and raced back to the car–never more excited to return to a grocery store.
So accustomed to the dull passing of cars near him, the gentleman didn’t even turn to the sound of my car until I rolled down my window and pulled up six steps from him.
As I explained the red, wrapped package I was waving out the window, I watched his wordless reaction with unexplainable joy, my heart beating faster as I likely began to ramble to this stranger. His graying eyes rippled with a renewed blue as his whole face brightened into a smile. He then blurted out a grateful handful of “thank yous!” as I returned a smile and a “We just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas!”
I made a terribly awkward three-point-turn to go back the way I came, but my self-criticism melted away as I turned back to the man, smile still brightly in tact and waving as I pulled forward. Leaving him to get smaller and smaller in my side mirror, I drove slowly, watching him. Once focused on his prioritized cardboard sign, he now sat down, put it into his backpack and turned to the lumpy package covered in red wrapping paper sitting on his lap.
Heart swollen with joy, I accelerated and left him alone to his gift.
Five days later, I sit here remembering that sweet exchange, trying to artfully put words together that convey the impact of that 60-second interaction.
Time has a way with widening your perspective, opening up your mind like a camera’s shutter as more and more light breaks in. I’ve spent the last five days shifting my focus on how to write this blog entry, and honing in on the real reason I wanted to write it. It took that long because I was afraid to start typing a post that might paint me as a self-righteous and morally superior writer who wanted to broadcast her act of generosity.
But then God just dropped this title in my lap, and now I don’t even care if that’s what readers think. By being so anxious of judgement, I was completely missing what God wanted me to learn from this act of generosity… and what I could share with those of you reading this.
Releasing that present into the man’s dirty, calloused hands was like personifying the cartoon Grinch who stole Christmas. I felt like my lips couldn’t stretch far enough to contain my smile, and my heart was three sizes too big. I wanted to just keep handing him gifts through the window, soaking in the image of his eyes crinkling in surprised delight.
In the timeframe of when I saw him sitting on the curb to when he sat down with his wrapped package–those 45 minutes–my sole drive in life was to give that gift away.
And in the timeframe of 30 years, Jesus lived His entire life so that He could give it away.
During this season, I can’t help but think about the extreme example our Savior provided when He personified the word “give.” In the bustle of going from store to store, searching for that perfect deal, please try to retain the excitement of generosity. Don’t let the stress of buying outweigh the joy of giving during this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.