Here we are - Christmas Eve--- and i can't remember a time I've ever felt less Christmasy. Sigh.
I feel like I've been treading water lately --- there have been some deaths in our community over the last couple weeks - I live in a small town, grew up here, and each one has a connection to me. This time of the year always makes it harder too.
My dad has also had some health issues going on for a good 3 or 4 weeks, with 2 hospital stays in the last 2 weeks. He has been very ill - quite a roller coaster. Fingers-crossed we are past the big loops.
Add to it all -- getting ready for Christmas, my Etsy shop has blown up this season (yay!) and the countless other day-to-day stuff, and I've been feeling beat down.
Our furnace decided to be difficult the other day. Sigh. So -- I needed to run into town to pick up some things to fix it at the hardware store. It had just started snowing and I was hoping to get into town and back before the roads got to slick.
After the hardware store stop, I decided to run a quick errand at the Dollar General. It was still snowing, the wind was picking up and it was miserable out. So - I ran in to get what I needed, and found my place in line behind 2 others. The woman in front of me, impatient and with only a couple items - asked if she could go before the woman in the front with a full cart. The first woman --- we'll call her "Anna" -- graciously allowed her in. As the woman was stretching over to place her items on the counter --- she said loudly - "where are your shoes?". Anna, shuffled nervously - and stated she was just coming from a nursing home where she was recovering from a lengthy illness and they did not give her her belongings upon leaving. The woman hurried on her way.
Anna began to unload her cart onto the counter - slowly placing the items as she talked with the cashier. The woman had stayed in the nursing home to rehab for a couple months - she had been hospitalized for a severe reaction to some medication.
Here extended stay explained her appearance. Anna was dressed in a summery dress with a small t-shirt under it - on her feet - the oh-so-fashionable slipper socks from a hospital stay - and, remember it was snowing - they were soak and wet, leaving footprints where she stood. It was not even 30 degrees that day - she had no shoes. She had no coat. You could tell she was exhausted from the activity.
The line behind us grew longer, and impatient. Anna was chatting with the cashier - this was her first stop on the way home. She was buying some gifts for her family. She pulled out pjs and coloring books - blanket throws and stocking stuffers. The cashier asked her if she was picking up some shoes for herself. She said no, her funds were limited and she needed to at least get "something" for her family.
Ok --- anyone who knows me well, is wondering how long I kept quiet and still. LOL. the answer -- not long. I pushed my cart to the side - excused myself and made my way to the clothing section - no shoes. But -- indoor/outdoor soled slippers -- works for me, and definitely better then what she has. I quickly made my way to the front of the store -- the line still where i left it - still growing impatient. I grabbed a $10 bill from my bag, and handed it and the slippers to the cashier, i asked her to add it to her order -- I turned to Anna and said "Merry Christmas, I'm glad your feeling better and able to come home to be with your family. They didn't have any shoes, but i think these will work for now." Her eyes spilled with tears and she asked if she could hug me. As i was loading her bags into her cart, she thanked me and apologetically explained how things had been extra tough this year. "Absolutely no need to apologize. We've all been there whether we'd like to admit it or not."
She made her way out of the store, as I paid for my items and the line of impatient people behind us found some relief. The cashier thanked me for my help with loading Anna's bags, and the generosity. Outside - still snowing and sticking pretty good -- Anna was getting in a car and - from the conversation - her daughter-in-law was loading the bags in the car. I heard her say "there she is" and she waved from the car. The scene made me wish i could do more - but, I have a tendency to go over the top. LOL.
I got in the car - ready to head home. As I drove - I had so many things on my mind, but they had a new spin. Yes, I was stressed, yes - dad was very ill. Yes, there are many friends and family dealing with grief the last few months - but Anna had her all into making something nice for her family Christmas morning - despite all of her "stuff". She must have been so cold in a summery dress - no shoes on a cold, snowy day. Those slippers only cost $8, and she could have added them to her pile -- but she was thinking of others, unselfishly. She was not embarrassed to share her story, or embarrassed when I quietly slipped the slippers and money to the cashier. Humble, grateful -- thankful for the gesture.
The encounter made me switch my thinking - -and while the "things" are still happening and calling my attention away from Him -- I know He put Anna in my path that day. Kindness and attention are important - even when we are fearful. Mary - confused and fearful when the angel Gabriel approached her to tell her the news - she responded with humility and faith - albeit blindly, and fearful -- “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. We are called upon to also be the Lord's servant, to be kind and compassionate to our neighbors. It doesn't have to be a pair of slippers - it could be a cup of coffee, a kind word -- a smile. Be a good human! You are the Lord's servant.
Christmas blessings to you and yours --- if you're struggling getting in "the mood" -- if you have suffered loss --- if you have found your Christmas spirit this year in un-ordinary places --- you do you!