My two-year-old daughter managed to take a four-hour nap today. All parents know what this means – it means that I was in for a long night because there was no way she was falling asleep anywhere near her 8 PM bedtime.
My solution to this was to take us both Christmas shopping after dinner. I had been meaning to go to 2nd and Charles, a store that sells used books mostly, but also DVDs, CDs, and even musical instruments and toys. I think it is my new favorite store as I have always found a home in big bookstores (a dying entity), and most importantly, it is eco-shopping at its finest! (Buying used anything lessens the impact on the Earth.)
When I was done there, the Tuesday Morning next door lured me in. (Ooo, pretty lights.) We browsed the aisles.
“Mommy, a kitty,” A. exclaimed, spotting the stuffed animals. I handed a soft and squishy yellow plush cat to her.
“Okay, but you know the rule. You can carry it around while we shop, but when it’s time to go, it stays here.”
“Okay,” she said merrily. (I’ve trained her well on this, believe me, for my sanity and my bank account’s sake.)
Two minutes later, she picks up a pink bag with a penguin on it. “Okay, you can carry it, but we are not taking it home.” Then a Cat in the Hat puzzle. Then a mug. Then a sip cup. Then a jewelry box. Then a princess-y something.
We received many a smile and some “she’s so cute” due to A's delight in just about every little thing in the store. By the time we reached the cash register, she had traded out everything except for a pink “ballerina outfit” as she called it. I waited in line as she chanted, “Mommy, I love this pink ballerina dress. Mommy. This ballerina dress is so pretty. Mommy. It is pink with a heart on it.”
I (utilizing a very important parenting skill) have learned to tune this sort of thing out -- this chanting of “I want, I want, I want.” Dutifully, I hummed back, “Mmm-hmmm. But we are not taking it home. You can ask Santa for it if that's what you want.”
The line was really taking too long at that point. A woman checking out smiled again at us. I shook my head playfully smiling, insinuating, “Kids. You know.” I then paid for my item and said, “Okay, it’s time to give the lady the costume. Remember you can always ask Santa for it.” A. obeyed, and we were almost successfully out the door…
Until, the smiley woman asked the cashier for the dress. Then the smiley woman bent down to A’s height, holding the dress up for her, and said, “Merry Christmas, sweetheart.”
Then she stood up, and somewhat shyly said to me, “I don’t have any children to buy for this year, so you know, I just wanted to give that to her.”
“Wow, thank you so much, “ I said, truly touched. I directed A. to say “thank you” too, which she did. (I think we were both a little dumbfounded actually.)
We took a few steps towards the door. I turned to thank her again, the reality of the act settling in. This time I asked her her name, and I introduced A. and myself. We all said merry Christmas again….really meaning it…and both smiling even bigger.
And I tell you what. That simple act. That random act. That kind act from this one woman in a store in the middle of Birmingham, Alabama, was such a true one. This small gesture had so much power! It’s going to sound corny no matter how I write it -- but driving home, I knew I had been touched by the Christmas spirit. Really. I felt downright giddy, with a little jingle bell tingle inside of me. I was just smiling! I said a prayer for the lady, that she sincerely have a merry Christmas, and I also asked for opportunities to pay this little-act-but-huge-kindness forward. I want everyone to feel this feeling!
Because there really is so much kindness in the world. So much good. It seems to get muddled in all of our humanness sometimes, and that’s okay. I have faith in it. I have faith in humankind. There are just so many good people.
Santa is real. Corny again, but he really does live inside each and every one of us. So when we tell our children to believe in Santa, what we are really saying is: Believe in Good. Believe in Joy. Believe in Generosity, Kindness, and Love.
In the end, we are telling them to believe in the good in themselves…and the good in others.
No matter how much darkness we have to endure while on this planet, we can all rest assured: Santa Lives.
It’s up to us to keep him alive, for there will ALWAYS be good. So keep believing.
Merry Christmas, sweet people! May random acts of kindness find you this holiday season and beyond….