As the song proclaims, it’s that most wonderful time of the year. Christmas to many is a time with family and friends, great food and the celebration of a birth of our savior. To others, it can be a time of great financial stress and sadness. I find great joy in the holidays beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing until the New Year, but I also know that life’s circumstances can change it all in a heartbeat. A dear friend … my oldest friend, lost his wife last week and I can only imagine the sadness of spending his first Christmas in almost 40 years without her.
I had breakfast with him Friday, his first day alone after the last of his visiting family left. He is always a positive and upbeat guy, but it was impossible for him to hide his feeling of complete loss. I'm praying daily for him to be comforted through his Christmas season. When it is a family member or a close friend, their loss becomes our loss. We suffer along with them and try our best to provide support and help in returning to normalcy, but their lives are forever changed. They can’t return to the way things were. They must find their new normal.
That evening after our breakfast, Arlene asked me to come along with her as she ran some errands. I didn’t feel like leaving the house as I was still feeling sad from my breakfast with a friend. She insisted, saying, “It will be good for you get out of the house and get some fresh air,” so I did.
Our last stop was at the dollar store. I wanted to remain in the car as she picked up the items she needed, but again, she insisted I tag along as she picked up wrapping paper and scotch tape.
The dollar store was packed with shoppers. It was apparent that many were shopping for necessities and even grocery items. I overheard a conversation between a mother and daughter discussing their limited funds and the fact that the tube of toothpaste the daughter was holding might have to wait until next week. I wanted to interrupt and give them a dollar for that essential item … but didn’t. How do you barge in on a personal and painful conversation and offer help? I was tuned in and it became apparent that many in that store were straining to make the choices of how to make the few dollars last.
As we stepped up to the counter to make our purchase, a manager, seemingly excited, made the announcement that the registers needed to close for a moment and asked everyone to be patient. She was holding a substantial amount of cash. The manager then asked to get the attention of those standing in line and said, “An anonymous donor had entered the store and said that he had left a large sum of cash and said to use it to pay for all the purchases until the cash ran out. There was enough to pay for all the shoppers' purchases. I was floored.
As our purchase of $10 was punched into the register, I insisted on paying. It wasn’t pride, but the understanding that I was able to pay while others were struggling. Arlene and I left the store truly inspired by the anonymous generosity. The donor paid cash, so he was not seeking a charitable tax benefit and did not wish to be identified … so there was no desire for recognition. It was truly a selfless act of kindness designed to bless a store filled with strangers.
I understand that not all of those in the store were in need. For them, it was a kind gesture by a stranger. But for those who were financially stressed … it was a Christmas miracle. At that moment, my sadness for my friend was transformed into a renewed faith in life. A store full of strangers were blessed by the generosity of someone who committed a premeditated act of kindness for no personal gain.
To the donor … may God bless you … whomever and wherever you are. Thank you. And for those who were blessed by this act … as Clement Clark Moore penned in his classic poem, “Twas the night before Christmas” …
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!