During the holiday season, you usually have two choices. You can lament the fact that Christmas decorations have somehow slipped in through the back door of your favorite retailer, scoff at the fondue pots and Gillette gift sets, and bemoan the ever-present hum of Feliz Navidad, or you can simply accept and appreciate the magic of the season.
With the exception of hi-fiving one’s friends at the faintest whiff of Peppermint Mocha, most people choose the former.
I’ve personally never met the start of the holiday season with despair, no matter how early it’s happened. In fact, I’ve usually already started baking cookies by Thanksgiving. Though stores become cluttered unnecessarily early, and there’s a lot of premature stocking-hanging, I’m not that kind of Grinch. I will ignore the Christmas station until the day after Thanksgiving and perform other acts of holiday self-preservation, but I will not deny you your joy (or lack thereof).
That said, this year’s been interesting. Every moment of it. I will spare you the details, because, hey, it’s Christmas. What I will say is my family has ended up in unfamiliar territory and everyone’s come together to manage the situation as best we could.
Between the waves of uncertainty and unpleasantness, it’s been harder to find the light. Instead of fighting against what was and looking at the world through narrow slits, I’ve chosen to lie back and float with the tide.
I’ve taken my kids out a few times, to Christmas shop or what-have-you, and, of course, everything’s so shiny and beautiful, they’ve just been beside themselves. Happy, happy, happy.
The other night, my daughter and I had to run out for cat litter (it’s not garland, but hey). On our way into large discount store, my daughter looked up at me and said, “I hear something! I hear ringing!”
It was a familiar sound.
“Well, where is it coming from? Can you find it?” I asked her, as we crossed the parking lot on our way to the store.
“Right there!” she beamed, as she pointed to the Salvation Army bell ringer posted by the entrance.
When we approached, the woman offered to let her ring the bell. My daughter proudly and rhythmically rang the bell, smiling at the oncoming patrons. The woman was delighted by my daughter, and I was delighted by her happiness.
On the way out, I dug in my wallet for my change and tucked it into my daughter’s palm to put in the bucket. The woman kindly allowed my daughter to ring the bell again before we left, and then thanked me for bringing her by again.
Yesterday, I took my kids to see Santa (which was adorable, of course), and, at the mall we met with another bell ringer. I made it a point to approach her. She let each of my kids ring the bell, and each was able to put coins in the bucket. We chatted for a few minutes, my son introduced himself and his siblings to her, and she blessed me for having such beautiful children.
When we were through at the mall, we waved and wished her happy holidays.
In a split second, the open sore I’ve been hiding just below the surface was healed. A simple act of kindness by a woman, sitting on a metal chair in the mall, ringing a bell, virtually extinguished the pain I’ve been carrying with me for several months. The simple smile of a woman at my child, standing in the cold, collecting change, literally made my heart whole again.
I don’t know if it’s the season, or that our years-long difficulty may finally be coming to an end, or a combination of the two, but I feel I can now fully enter this season with the joy I’ve always known. The comfort that there are good people out there, truly good people, is beginning to return. The ability to enjoy the laughter of my children without having painful burdens detract from the sound has been truly priceless to me.
So, though we can (and will, and do) complain about holiday sales, long lines, annoying music, and plastic holly, and worldly concerns almost always weigh us down, there are moments of clarity, there are moments of compassion, and there are moments of pure love. You just have to find them. Or be lucky enough to have them find you.
Though I haven’t seen many in a while, I am beyond grateful for those two small moments that led me here.
This is my Christmas miracle. I hope you get yours.