So it happens that one of my sisters is in charge of the annual family Christmas get together this year. That means she plans the food, a program and, of course, any type of gift giving. Now, I have to tell you that having grown up in a Mennonite home a program was always integral to a successful gathering. That program would consist of singing carols, reciting poems and reading the Christmas story directly from the Bible. In fact, now don’t quote me on this, it had to be from the King James version because that was considered the authoritative version of all things scriptural. So whether one could sing or not we all lent our voices to hearty renditions of every carol ever written. After that, and don’t forget we had already spent well over an hour in church that morning, we could open presents. Sounds torturous, right? I suspect it probably was not as bad as it sounds. However, with my sister in charge, the program part will likely be a condensed version. Leaves more time for food.
Now, what I really wanted to share was an idea that she put forward that could be done instead of gifts. In her words she suggested that “in lieu of a gift exchange we ask that each individual initiate and/or perform a specific and random charitable act of kindness’. What a novel idea. So let me tell you of my random act of kindness.
Happens that Rose and I were in Sobeys picking up some groceries after an afternoon of meeting some family in Brandon. The line ups were long and patience was running thin. As the customer in front of us was having her groceries wrung up I suggested to Rose that we offer to pay for that woman’s groceries. She stepped aside and let me walk through first so I could make the offer. I stepped forward bravely but then lost my nerve. It would create a scene. It could be embarrassing. She would probably think I was some sort of freak. But then courage overruled and I made the offer. Well, to be sure, the reaction was interesting. The cashier started laughing and the customer gave me a very weird look. I assured them both that I was quite serious. The woman was flustered and wanted to know why. I suggested that we wanted to do this for her and wished her a Merry Christmas. She made the comment that it was good to see that there were still nice people around. And as she left she wished us a Merry Christmas as well.
That random act of kindness gave a pleasant surprise to some stranger that evening. What was even more fulfilling was the warm sense of community I felt. It was interesting how long that feeling stayed with me. It helped, at least temporarily, in removing that dark cloud that had been hanging over my head for far too long. And for some strange reason, I think I rediscovered what Christmas was meant to be. Make it a good one.