‘Twas the Morning Before Christmas

It happens this way …

Last Christmas Eve morning, it started to snow. Anyone who lives in this part of the world knows that three flakes are cause for panic. Why? So few snow plows and drivers who have difficulties navigating the inclines of many streets.

In fact, my first winter out here in 1990, we had a significant snow event and I had to get to the airport. My scheduled taxi never arrived and I finally drove myself to a nearby hotel that had its own shuttle service. Along the way, I was flabbergasted at the number of cars abandoned on roadways. People just walked away in frustration, I guess. What did they think would happen to their cars that looked like scattered legos covering the streets?

Anyway, back to last Christmas Eve. Since the forecast called for more snow, I grabbed a coat, threw it over my red-plaid pajama bottoms and braless gray sweatshirt, semi-combed my hair, and headed to the grocery store. To say I looked like a bag lady would be accurate, but I wasn’t worried about looks when the white stuff was coming down.

I was walking down an aisle in Grocery Outlet when a well-dressed woman approached me. I was certain she was going to ask me where she could find shrimp or a rib roast. Wrong. Rather, she smiled and handed me a card with her “Merry Christmas.” She walked away before I could process that I had a $25 gift card for this store in my hands.

I ran after her, tempted to return it and tell her to give it to someone who really needed it. But as I approached, I had another thought: How rude to return a gift so graciously given. It wasn’t about me. It was about her generosity and how it made her feel to select someone “so obviously in need.” So, I thanked her profusely and kept shopping.

My next impulse was to give the card to someone else. That old “better to give than receive” saying popped into my head and I was amazed about how uncomfortable I was to be on the receiving end. It took me several days and retellings of this story to friends for me to process one key fact: How I deflect compliments, affection, gifts, whatever, when they are gracefully given. I’ve pondered that habit over the ensuing months and, although I’ve not been able to break it completely, at least I’m more aware when I’m doing it. Awareness: The first step to change, no?

To say the least, I got more than a gift card last Christmas Eve. I got a new saying: “Receiving honors the giver.”

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