Sometimes the shortest stories garner the most impact. I wrote this as a simple post for my Facebook page and the response was overwhelmimgly positive, so here it is. Initially there was hesitation because I wanted no accolades nor sense this was “all about me”, however the comments may have gone in that direction. My motivation was to inspire people to follow suit and pay it forward, finding those who have faces and make a difference. If you’ve read the story I know you enjoyed it. If not, here it is. Wishing you all, and the millions this story is all about, a very “Happy Holiday”….
You know those little white battery operated lights? Well, I stopped at “Big Lots” to buy some for a little sparkle on the greens filling out the urns on our front porch. I always love shopping in stores where you can find the most obscure items ranging from a sofa and loveseat to salt and pepper and paper clips.
I watched as the elderly woman and her daughter were deciding on a “not so real” artificial Christmas tree. My own search had taken me to the “BalsamHill” website where the array seemed endless. The choices of how lifelike the branches might be, the type of lighting and shape were so endless I became dizzy. The mother and daughter settled on the “Almost Can’t Tell Edition” at today’s special price of $199 and were ecstatic. Quite frankly you almost couldn’t tell.
I chose the wonderful little battery operated LED lights with added silver spheres and making my way to the cash register stopped when I saw fleece “Thinsulate” lined gloves. When walking the dogs, on those cold winter mornings, gloves are a must. I plucked a pair from the display and threw them in, like a discard, standing in line waiting to pay.
The cashier collected my gloves and scanned the tags. “These are great,” she said, “I bought a pair last year but lost them. Darned if I know where they are… I’m not spending another eight dollars on them again.”
I hadn’t taken note of her but now did. Her hair was white, her face showed signs of age, perhaps she was in her late sixties or early seventies. When she spoke it was evident she was missing quite a few teeth and her life, if I were to guess, had not been one of ease, or perhaps it was and it had been taken away. It was all speculative. I took note of the line of customers behind me and paid the total.
My mind knew. Before leaving the store my mind knew but this had to be subtle. In my car, sitting for moment, I played the scene in my head. Then I returned. It felt as if this were an assignment. Looking for ladies gloves there were none so I plucked another pair of the men’s. I could have done this earlier but did not want a scene nor any embarrassment for her. I laid them on the counter.
“You said you bought these…were they men’s?” I simply wanted to be sure.
“Yes,” she said, demonstrating how they fit, “I live far from the bus stop and wear another pair underneath. It gets pretty cold when you have to walk far.” That was all that was needed. Pulling a ten from my wallet I handed it to her. She returned the change and receipt.
“This is the deal,” I said, pushing the gloves toward her, “These are for you. If you find yours and want to pay it forward you can, if not you have a spare pair.”
The white haired woman stared at me, her eyes welling up, the store manager standing behind. From her “post” she came around. Her arms reached wide as she wrapped me in a blanket of gratitude, though none was needed. “Merry Christmas,” she said, hugging me tightly as I returned the wish and left the store smiling, feeling introspective and compassionate but not complete. There are so many more like her.
The initial pair of gloves, for me, were a throw away. In truth they were too large for my hands, but for walking the dogs and the price, they served a purpose. I never imagined the greater purpose they could serve. But they did. Ah yes, perspective, it always catches up and reminds us how lucky, and potentially how quickly, a life can change. And it also got me thinking….
“Merry Christmas”. “Happy Hanukkah”. “Happy Kwanza”. When certain I say any with good spirit. When uncertain, “Happy Holidays”, like any guest, should be a welcome guest. I’ve loved the saying ever since Bing Crosby crooned it in “Holiday Inn”, an all time favorite movie. But when the lady behind the counter wished me a “Merry Christmas”, well, you see, it wasn’t simply mine, it was hers. Even if I didn’t celebrate it, she did. And those gloves made her not only merry and warmed her hands but warmed her heart as well. And that, with any well wishes of good spirit, is what this holiday season should be all about. God knows, these days, we need all the good spirit and kindness we can muster…