A few years ago I was working at the desk of a major library when a young man came to the desk with a book he was desperate to check out for a class he was taking at the University. Unfortunately he had fines on his card that had exceeded the limit I could override and allow him to take the book. He had no money. A stranger waiting in line stepped up and paid the fine. “I try to do one good deed for a stranger every Christmas season.” She brushed off the young man’s thanks. I love that concept. What a wonderful Christmas it would be if we all did just one kind thing for a stranger this holiday season.
Since then I’ve tried to emulate that woman’s action. Some years I’ve been more successful than others. With my family we’ve dressed up one family member or friend as Santa and made a few surprise visits. I keep a pocketful of change handy for the Salvation Army buckets at stores where I shop, mailed a few anonymous Christmas cards with cashiers checks, gave up a choice parking space to a woman with a van full of small children, but yesterday was one of the most fun and it didn’t cost me a penny. Waiting in a long checkout line, I became aware that the woman ahead of me was pregnant, trying to keep track of a pair of helpful twins, and her cart was piled high with necessities; pajamas, socks, panties, shirts, jeans, etc., all in children’s sizes. Even with the great 50% off sale taking place, her bill was staggering. In my purse was a fifteen percent off card for any day of my choosing at that store. You know the rest of the story. The look on her face when I handed her that card will remain one of my choice Christmas memories for years to come.
When our first child was small, we took in a series of foster children. One little boy arrived a couple of days before Christmas. He was not quite two and we had already spent our meager Christmas funds on a doll and toys for our little girl. With just days before Christmas and one of those days Sunday, we badly needed the allotment from the County to purchase gifts for him. Friday no check had arrived and Christmas was on Monday. Even if the check arrived on Saturday our delivery wasn’t until about four in the afternoon, sometimes later with the heavier Christmas deliveries. I rushed to the post office that Saturday morning to see if someone would check to see if the check would be in that day’s delivery and if so let me have it early. I was told it would do no good to check because it was against regulations to hand out mail at the post office that is slated for home delivery. Half an hour later, I got a telephone call from our mailman (I know they’re called letter carriers now). He said he’d been sorting mail for his route and overheard my request. The check I needed had arrived and if I’d meet him at his first stop, he’d give it to me. That dear man is someone I think of every Christmas season.
Little acts of kindness and compassion won’t miraculously make Christmas wonderful and white, but they go far in helping us feel the spirit of the season. Sometimes all we can manage is a smile or to wish someone merry Christmas, but most of us can surely find some small gesture of kindness that will bring a measure of Christmas cheer to two hearts—a stranger’s and our own.