This is Advent, for Christians a celebration of the birth of the Son of God, for those of other faiths, it’s just another holiday. But when you look around this divided nation, the season of peace in the land of the free is not much in abundance these days and is in rather short supply.
For many, this Christmas will be unlike any they’ve ever known, and not in a positive way. When leadership is at each other’s throats, and the people seem to be separated by a vast chasm of ideological and political differences, makes for a dismal and rather chaotic life and holiday season.
The hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers, the cheerful greetings from even strangers, replaced now with deserted city streets and people tucked away in their homes. The colorful window displays are gone and the storefronts are darkened; some may never open again because of a callous and selfish political class that knows not the harm they do.
By now you’re probably thinking, just what I needed, especially at this time of the year, some know-it-all pontificating and spreading his depressed ruminations among the rest of us, so we too can feel the sadness that he feels. But I can assure you that this not the case, for what I hope will be a reason that all of us can find great hope in, and treasure as a Christmas gift to remember.
Like many others, I too engage in that chaotic undertaking that is a plague during the Christmas season, “last-minute shopping.” Recently I traveled to that big storehouse of goodies we have come to appreciate, the Mall. While moving from store to store, with mask on face and distancing, looking for the right gift for family and friends, I stopped by a retailer that has come through on many an occasion.
After searching the aisles, I found a couple of gifts that fit the bill, and knew the recipients would appreciate. Proceeding up to the checkout, there was a long line of customers that stretched about twenty long, but I was not about to leave the store without purchasing the items I found. It didn’t help matters that there were only two cashiers.
So there I stood waiting and breathing through a piece of cloth like all the other customers who I’m sure were on edge and just wanted to pay and go. Then something happened, I wasn’t quite sure at first, but someone at one of the cashier was holding up the line. Patience was at the breaking point; frustrated shoppers are a dangerous breed. It started at first like voices speaking is a low key, like a murmur, then it increased in intensity and decibel level, then someone let a “hey, what’s holding up the line. I want out of here.”
Movement remained stagnant, then all of a sudden the waiting customers burst into applause and started nodding their heads in approval, and the whole atmosphere in the store seemed to change as people began to talk to one another, and wishing all a Merry Christmas.
Word spread of what had happened. It seemed an older lady when paying for the items she was purchasing did not have sufficient money to complete the sale, and did not have a credit card as a default. She became visibly upset and embarrassed, and all the complaining of those waiting did not help matters. The next thing that would usually take place was the cashier would cancel the order, the next customer would step forward, and the older lady would leave the store disheartened and empty-handed.
But then something in the true spirit of the season happened, a young man maybe in his early twenties who had just paid for his items and was about to leave the store stopped, hearing what was happening he turned around came back and spoke to the lady and cashier, and like the Three Wise Men and gift of the Magi, this young man paid the bill.
The older woman could only stare at her benefactor and hero, she lowered her mask and the tears streamed down her wrinkled but delicate face, she then put her arms around the young man and they hugged. He wished her and all the shoppers waiting a Merry Christmas, and then disappeared out the door. He did not wait around for any further fanfare and praise; he just did a good and noble deed and moved on. We will probably never know his name, but I’m certain the good Lord does.
There’s a passage in Proverb that reads, “We lead our lives by what we get; we live our lives by what we give.” This young man’s generous gesture was not only for the older lady; he gave us all a gift. It wasn’t wrapped in colorful paper with ribbons and bows, it was the true spirit of Christmas, and I’m certain those of us who were fortunate enough to be there, left the store happy and thankful that we were part of a small yet profound act of goodness and giving during the season of peace.