Whenever people say to me that they don't like Christmas, they follow it by saying that it is a Hallmark holiday designed by retailers for you to spend money that you shouldn't spend on gifts you don't need. Creating a Christmas list might seem to fall in line with this thinking. Wanting something for Christmas might give these skeptics some support. Black Friday does no help to dismiss what Christmas Haters believe, especially when you see fights breaking out at Victoria's Secret over underwear that is no more on sale than any other time of year. I mean, come on people, I need underwear as much as the next person but a fist fight over panties??? I would like to point out here though that, like all things, there are people who always take things to a whole new level. These people don't define a situation, they are the exception to it.
There are so many more people that hold the spirit of Christmas very close to their heart during this time of year. I agree that maybe we shouldn't wait until we're putting up the tree at the end of November to feel goodwill towards men but that's another topic to tackle another day. There are people who stand on street corners collecting money for the Salvation Army. There are people that hold toy drives for cancer patients, that mobilize choirs to sing in Elderly homes, that send care packages to soldiers. None of those people are out shopping like greedy monkeys for the best sale, they are helping to care for one another, so why don't we ever think of them, Christmas Haters, when we make your judgements about Christmas?
Maybe you, yourself, haven't been on the nice list in a while. So I dare you to go out and do something kind and tell me that Christmas doesn't seem a little more hopeful, a less less Bah Humbugish and Grinchful after having done so.
At least 10+ years ago, my mother was driving me to New York City after Thanksgiving to visit a friend.
When we pulled up to pay our $0.35 toll, the collector asked us, "Do you know him?" Pointing to the car that had pulled away.
"Well, he paid for your toll. Said Happy Thanksgiving."
That has stayed with me ever since. A stranger doing something kind for people he doesn't know and will never meet? He would never even hear a thank you for the goodness he extended to us, but he wasn't in it for the thank you.
A few years ago, I remembered this kindness. I went out for the first time on Black Friday to a nearby department store to see what this sale fuss was about. When I was done collecting my Christmas inventory I stood on line... about a 1/4 of the way around the perimeter of the store. In all of my years of visiting amusement parks, I had never seen a line this long. As annoying as it is standing on line for that long, people made the best of it. I was talking to the ladies in front of me and behind me. Because there were no shopping carts available, I was holding everything in my arms, so the lady in back offered me to put my things in her cart so that I was more comfortable. After waiting almost an hour, the lady in front noticed the time and started realizing that she would still be in line when it was time to pick up her teenage son from basketball practice. She hadn't anticipated being in lone this long, I assume because I never could have imagined it either. I remembered back to the toll man's kindness and instead of $0.35 offered my time.
"I could hold your place," I offered.
"Really?" She asked. "I wouldn't be long."
"Yeah. That's fine." I nodded. "Go ahead."
She dashed out of the store. Time ticked on and the line kept moving and I started to get nervous because the register was getting closer and closer. And then I was at the front of the line. But no sign of teenage son's mom. They called me to the register and I made a quick judgement call to let the woman behind me go. Then they called me again, and I let the next person behind me go. Call after call I let shoppers pass me by as I waited for teenage son's mom to return. As I saw it, I had two options here: tell myself that I had done a good enough deed and had waited longer than I needed. Then buy my things and go home for some left over turkey dinner in front of the television OR actually do good enough and wait. Besides, where was I going anyway? To eat left over turkey dinner in front of the television?
Obviously, if I had taken the first option, I wouldn't be telling it to you in this story.
I waited. And waited. And waited. To be honest, at times, I did think about leaving and then took a look to the infinite line that I couldn't see the end of and imagined this poor lady, rushing to pick up her kids and rush back to get back in time to buy her Christmas shopping for her family only to get to said department store and have to wait on line all over again - after already having waited an hour. I told myself that she wouldn't, she couldn't be angry with me for leaving. After all, I too had things to do - turkey leftovers... Mmm. I could have left her things at the register for her so at least she wouldn't have to lose her stuff and she would have understood that I was busy also and needed to leave, but that just didn't seem to sit well with me. It's Christmas I thought... goodwill towards men (and women shoppers) and all, right?
Teenage son's mom finally arrived dragging her teenage son through the store, "You're still here?" She asked in total and utter surprise. "You waited?"
"Yeah. I just let some people go ahead.
"Oh my gosh. Thank you so much," she gleamed.
"No worries. I had nowhere to be," was my response.
We paid for our purchases exchanged Merry Christmas-es and said goodbye.
Its funny how just doing something good, can instantly make you feel better. Oh that Oprah... always right!
So here's my thought to Christmas Haters... what if instead of looking at a Christmas as a greedy wanting for something holiday, we look at it as something we can hope for, something we can look forward to, something we can do for others.
Ask yourself, what very simple, kind goodness can I do for someone else this day? What can I do for someone else without the thought of what someone will do for me? Give up my seat on the train for a prego? Pay someone's (now doubled to $0.70) toll? Let someone with only one can of cranberries in front of me on the grocery line? Buy a Starbucks gift card and leave it for the next customer? (Ohhhh... I like that one.) Use my gift card to buy presents for others because I'm low on cash (yep! I've done that one before in my broke Graduate School days.).
Maybe if we start to act in goodness, with goodwill towards men we can forget the notion that Christmas is a want, want, want holiday that makes more money for people that already have it. Maybe we could remember that giving isn't just a verb but an action, something we consciously do. I don't give on Christmas for anything in return. I give because it feels good. I give because I like it. And then maybe, juuuuuust maybe, we could keep somethings, like Christmas, out of skeptical scrutiny and keep them innocent of Corporate America and just wonder and awe at the spirit of it all, at the twinkling lights of a tree that you see through a window, as the snow starts to fall on Christmas Eve.
What good things have you done for others or what can you do this Christmas to show goodwill towards men (and women and dogs)?