Goodwill Towards Men

November 29, 2012

Whenever people say to me that they don’t like Christmas, they follow it by saying that it is a Hallmark holiday designed by retailers for you to spend money that you shouldn’t spend on gifts you don’t need. Creating a Christmas list might seem to fall in line with this thinking. Wanting something for Christmas might give these skeptics some support. Black Friday does no help to dismiss what Christmas Haters believe, especially when you see fights breaking out at Victoria’s Secret over underwear. I mean, come on people, I need underwear as much as the next person but a fist fight over panties??? But, like in all areas of life, there are people who take things to a whole new level. These people don’t define a situation, they are the exception to it.

There are so many more people that hold the spirit of Christmas, that embody it with every smile they share. I agree that maybe we shouldn’t wait until we’re putting up the tree to feel goodwill towards men but that’s another topic to tackle another day. There are people who stand on street corners collecting money for the Salvation Army. There are people that hold toy drives for cancer patients, that mobilize choirs to sing in elderly homes, that send care packages to soldiers. None of those people are out shopping like greedy monkeys for the best sale, they are helping to care for one another, so I challenge you to think of them, Christmas Haters, when making your judgements about the greed of the season.

Maybe you, yourself, haven’t been on the nice list in a while. So I dare you to go out and do something kind and then tell me that Christmas doesn’t seem a little more hopeful and less Grinchful after having done so.

Almost 20 years ago (yikes! That makes me sound old AF), my mother was driving me to New York City on Thanksgiving to visit a friend.

When we pulled up to a toll booth to pay, the collector asked us, “Do you know him?” Pointing to the car that had pulled away.

“Well, he paid for your toll and said Happy Thanksgiving.”

The toll was a couple of bucks. Maybe that guy remembers it, maybe he doesn’t but almost two decades later, that has stayed with me. A stranger doing something kind for people he didn’t know and will never meet. He’d never get a thank you or to bask in his kindness, the goodness he extended to us, but he wasn’t in it for the thank you.

A few years ago, I remembered this kindness. I went out for the first time on Black Friday to a nearby department store to see what this sale fuss was about. When I was done checking off my Christmas inventory I stood on line… about a 1/4 of the way around the perimeter of the store. In all of my years of visiting amusement parks, I had never seen a line this long. As annoying as it is standing on line for that long, people made the best of it. I talked to  the lady in front of me for a bit. The lady behind offered up her shopping cart to rest all of my stuff since there was no other shopping cart available. After waiting an hour, the lady in front noticed the time and started realizing that she would still be in line when it was time to pick up her teenage son from basketball practice. She hadn’t anticipated being in line this long, I assume because I never could have imagined it either. I remembered back to the toll man’s kindness and instead of a few bucks offered my time.

“I could hold your place,” I offered.

“Really?” She asked, her eyes wide with disbelief.
“Yeah. It’s fine.” I nodded. “Go ahead. I’ll wait until you get back.”
“Oh my gosh. I won’t be long. I’ll hurry.”

She dashed out of the store. Time ticked on and the line kept moving and I started to get nervous because the register was getting closer and closer. And then I was at the front of the line with no sign of teenage son’s mom. They called me to the register and I made a quick judgement call to let the woman behind me go. Then they called me again, and I let the next person behind me go. Call after call I let shoppers pass me by as I waited for teenage son’s mom to return.

I waited. And waited. And waited. To be honest, at times, I did think about leaving and then looked at the line, so long I couldn’t see the end and imagined this poor lady, rushing to pick up her kids and then rushing back to the store to find that I had left and have to wait on line all over again – after already having waited an hour. I told myself that she wouldn’t, she couldn’t  be angry with me for leaving. I could have left her things at the register for her so at least she wouldn’t have to lose her stuff and she would have understood but it’s Christmas I thought… goodwill towards men (and women shoppers) and all, right?

Teenage son’s mom finally arrived dragging her teenage son through the store, “You’re still here?” She asked in total and utter surprise. “You waited?”

“Yeah. I just let some people go ahead.”
“Oh my gosh. Thank you so much,” she gleamed.
“No worries.”

We paid for our purchases exchanged Merry Christmas-es and said goodbye.

I was on a happy Christmas high all day. So here’s my thought to the Christmas Haters… what if instead of looking at Christmas as a greedy, I-want-something holiday, we look at it as something we can hope for, something we can look forward to, something we can do for others.

Ask yourself, what very simple, kind goodness you can do for someone else this day? What can I do for someone else without the thought of what someone will do for me? Give up my seat on the train for a pregnant lady? Pay someone’s toll? Let someone with only one can of cranberries in front of me on the grocery line? Buy a Starbucks gift card and leave it for the next customer? (Ohhhh… I like that one.)

Maybe if we start to act in goodness, with goodwill towards men we can forget the notion that Christmas is a want, want, want holiday that only makes more money for people that already have it. Maybe we could remember that giving is an action, something we consciously do. I don’t give on Christmas for anything in return. I give because it feels good. I give because I like it. And then maybe, we could keep somethings, like Christmas, out of skeptical scrutiny. Maybe we could all learn the lesson of what Christmas should really be.

 “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags… What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

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