It had been a long week. My sophomore year I had been working eight-hour shifts the entire week leading up to Christmas as a checker at the United Supermarket back home in Lubbock. For hours I would check out lines of customers, usually several people long, that stretched well into the aisles. The stress level of the customers grew as we all approached that dreaded holiday: Christmas.
Wait, did I say dreaded? I meant the most joyful time of the year.
I apologize for sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s just that the holidays seem the opposite of cheerful when everyone you come into contact with seems to be at his or her limits. Often I would leave work thinking that one morning of joy hardly seemed worth the endless shopping, cooking, decorating, planning, driving and dealing with relatives. All the added stress hardly seemed a worthy trade-off.
Everyone who came through the line would comment about how much they loved the piano player that had been brought in to add “atmosphere.” By the fourth hour of “Joy to the World,” though, I was at my wits’ end. I was certainly glad the Christmas season was not year-round.
Mutinous thoughts toward Chris Kringle and this season of drear had been going through my head when I checked out a middle-aged man who had only bought a few items. I don’t remember much about the man – only that after he had been checked out he slipped me two twenty dollar bills and with a grin told me to pay for the woman behind me.
It was an incredibly nice gesture. I thoroughly enjoyed telling the woman, who looked a little stressed herself, that the man in front of her had paid $40 towards her groceries. The look on her face was something I’ll never forget. I had no idea who the man was and couldn’t tell the woman any information about him. He was just a stranger – a stranger who wanted to perform a random act of charity toward another human being.
Earlier during the work break I had been blessed to be on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. That day I had been assigned to sacking duty and was taking a cart full of groceries out to a man’s truck. It was cold. I had a jacket on, but my hands were slowly turning purple. When we got to the truck, the man reached for a pair of work gloves and handed them to me. I was incredibly grateful and certainly thought of the man every time I went outside with those gloves on.
Seeing the stranger pay for the groceries of the woman behind him and receiving a random act of kindness myself lifted my spirits during the Christmas season – certainly much more than the endless piano performances of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” It was nice to see the sincere generosity and goodness that the Christmas season brought out in some people. I wish that the desire to be charitable to others extended beyond the holiday season. It was that part of the Christmas season that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was that part of the Christmas season I wish lasted all year round.