I’ve had a hard time finding my Christmas spirit this year. Normally I’m on the ball and most of my decorating and holiday prep is done in mid-November. This year I didn’t finish my shopping until December 21st. I had to go out into the insanity and it wore down my very last nerve. I honestly didn’t think I would ever feel that special warmth Christmas used to bring.
It is out there though… as elusive as it has been this year I caught a glimpse of it yesterday and I’m holding onto that for dear life.
While shopping in a trendy part of town I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of the elderly woman sitting on her walker at the side of the street. She wasn’t waiting for a bus… she was waiting for people to put some change in her hat. She could have been my mother… she probably was someone’s mother or sister.
I knew I needed to give her something but I have a no-money policy when it comes to handouts. I’ll give food or items or gift certificates but I don’t like giving actual cash. When I came back to this woman she was staring down at a penny the well dressed business man had tossed in with his nickels. I handed her a gift card for a local health food bakery/grocery shop and she was totally speechless. She was stunned… when she calmed down she said something that startled me in its simplicity: “I can buy food with this? Real food I can eat?”. I cried the whole way home. The fact that this woman was unable for whatever reason to turn to family or friends for help just tore at my heart.
No matter how bad my life gets I hope I will always have family and friends to turn to. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves how easily we could have ended up in her position. One bad choice, or a simple case of bad luck at a crucial point in our lives could put us in her shoes. We have to remember that. We have to smile at them and look them in the eye when they ask for our generosity. Even if it is just to say “sorry, not today”. Seeing a person begging for money should bother you. It should make you feel a little ill. But ignoring them should make you feel worse, not better. I’m going to stop before I start getting preachier.
Talking to that woman brought me back to reality. Her presence reminded me that Christmas Spirit isn’t about having the perfect holiday; decorated by Martha or catered by the Naked Chef. It isn’t about buying the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. It is about generosity of spirit and love of humankind. We would do well to remember that and cling to it all year round.