Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Spirit of Christmas

There are seven more days until Christmas morning, and for the first time in years my shopping is done! I am still writing cards, but otherwise I am just going about my normal routine while everyone else seems to be frantic (as I used to be in years gone by). At this point in my life I’ve had enough Christmases to know how to find my way through the craziness that seems to always come with the first carole you hear on the radio ~ the day after Thanksgiving.

It’s all about buying just the right gifts for everyone on your list and, whether you can afford it or not, don’t forget yourself ~ something really hot, like the latest (this week) in technology or maybe even that new car you’ve been thinking about. Go on, charge it ~ the bill will come next month, next year! Everyone is in debt ~ it’s no longer a shame, but part of life. Eventually everything will get better, but now there’s nothing like something new and snappy to make you ~ and your loved ones ~ feel good!

I don’t decorate as much as I used to ~ my children are grown and have families and homes of their own. I do have outdoor lights, but once inside there is only a small artificial tree and an occasional holiday garland creatively wrapped around a battery-operated candle.

Here in California, the weather doesn’t exactly put me in a holiday mood so it is easy to go about my normal routine amidst the crowds and not once feel like it is Christmas. This was how I felt this morning as I drove to my neighborhood Costco to purchase just three items I had forgotten to get last weekend. There’s a radio station I listen to that plays a variety of my favorite songs, and during December they throw in a Christmas song or two. Didn’t hear anything special as I guided my car cautiously through the Costco parking lot, finally finding a spot quite a ways from the store. Oh, well, the walk will do me good ~ I need the exercise ~ I said to myself as I parked and headed toward the front door. I was not prepared for what was inside.

I think everyone had the same schedule this morning ~ head for Costco! I had to slow down at the entrance because of all the people walking in. I wasn’t looking forward to the aisle traffic ~ people carelessly pushing their carts into other people or stopping dead in their tracks right in the middle of the aisle, oblivious to others. But today was different. Today, rudeness took the day off. So did thoughtlessness. Hard to believe that in Costco on the last weekend before Christmas! It was, however, almost magical ~ considering the fact that the place was packed and carts were overflowing ~ that there were smiles and manners and such friendliness that was until now practically unknown within those walls.

People were saying “Excuse me!” Strangers were chatting with strangers! I stepped over to pick up a 36-pack of green tea bottles and a man from out of nowhere rushed over and lifted it out of my hands into my cart. I smiled and thanked him; he smiled back. I got through the store in no time, and even sampled some goodies as I guided my cart through the crowd. Arriving at the front check-out counters, I noticed that every one of them was open, and employees were helping customers load their items onto the belts that carried them toward the checkout clerks. The man who helped me was friendly and chatty, as though I was the only one there. He didn’t seem to mind that hundreds of other customers were heading toward the counters, and without rushing he was efficient and I breezed through in no time. Everyone was happy!

This just never happens. Costco is a great place to shop, but usually when customers get inside they forget others. They usually don’t smile. And they certainly don’t pay attention to others needing help!

As I left the store, the last person I encountered was a gentleman checking my receipt against what I had in my cart. He looked up and smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “Merry Christmas,” I replied. “Oh! Yes! Merry Christmas to you too!” he answered. All the way to the car I noticed how nice everyone was being to one another. And when I finally backed my car out of my parking place and headed toward the lot exit, an oncoming car stopped and motioned me to go ahead.

A Christmas song suddenly came on the radio as I pulled my car onto the busy street. Maybe I never paid such attention to my trips to buy groceries before; what caused me to notice this nice experience? And then it occurred to me. The spirit of Christmas had just paid me a visit!

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