Yesterday I was gone Christmas shopping from nine o’clock in the morning, until seven o’clock at night. Anyone who has the gall to tell you that shopping is not hard work is not only a liar … but also an idiot. If you don’t believe me just think about the fact that: A) it was six degrees where I live B) the smell of the mall is a wicked combination of fruity-perfume, farts, and french fries C) the first store, and the second may not have what you need, but the third … yeah, it also won’t D) asking where the blush is will somehow translate into, “sit here for this makeover you didn’t ask for or want” E) you won’t have time to do natural things like eat or pee, because you’ve masochistically adopted the mantra, “One more store!” and F) your heart will flutter with anxiety-ridden palpitations as you realize that is the fourteenth time someone asked you if you needed a gift receipt.
Yes, shopping is not for the weak of heart or mind. Even for us seasoned pros, it is a challenge. But as I rested my toes in a rose-water bath at the end of the day, greeted not with candles, but my daughter’s array of happy, plastic-toy faces … the song the twelve days of Christmas rang in my mind, but I was signing to the tune of the memories of the amazing people God gave me the opportunity to meet, and just then, my sore feet were no longer an issue. Thomas S. Monson once said, “The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness. It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things.”
- Roz: He was the Indian gas station attendant, who told me I had a pretty smile. I asked him if he had a family, and he shared with me that his daughter was getting married, and he was also blessed with a son and a beautiful wife. I told him about my family, and then I told him my name and we shook hands. Before leaving, he gave me two lollipops for my kids, and asked that God would bless me and my family. I told him I’d pray for his as well, and we parted … changed.
- Bo: The one-year-old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed little buddy that greeted me at Michael’s craft store when his mother and my cart danced around one another. I must’ve bumped into them four times around those crazy crafting aisles … and each time, I was greeted with an unguarded giggle and chubby hand, waving at me.
- Lisa: The sweet cashier, who shared a little football cheer with me, even though we were in enemy territory. As I chatted with her, she mentioned that she’d never been in World Market, the store I’d just came from, and so then and there, I made her pinky-promise me that she’d go and explore just for fun. We giggled like long-time-pals, and she said when she finished at three, it would be her first stop!
- Stefani: The awesome worker at Ulta, who helped me to become un-brainwashed by the product-overload I’d just been wrapped into with one of the tellers. When I opened my overrun hands, she literally took things I didn’t need away, smiling like we shared a secret, as she took them back to the appropriate aisles so I wouldn’t get trapped again!
- Levi & Kalia: The sweet empty-nesters, who chatted with me about their ambitious college boys, as I showed them proud-as-a-peacock pictures of my kids. They reminded me how fast it goes, how much boys will eat you out of house and home, and how a line that wraps half-way around the store is nothing if you’re in good company.
- Francesca’s Cashiers: The three girls who floated with me around the little boutique to help me find a purse since the one I’d bought there broke, back in September. Though I had no receipt or tags, they looked it up online and traced things back to giving me a full refund, then covered up for my blunder when I put my foot in my mouth, saying how the hideous cat poster was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen, right as the girl beside me was getting it! Again … laughter covers over a multitude of blunders!
- Picture Book Guy: The gentleman who gave a full-tooth smile and gift of, “Thank you sweetheart,” just because I shared a coupon I wasn’t using at Barnes & Noble.
- 37-Year Married Couple: The aged, gray-haired, elbows-linked couple hobbling together as a single entity in the parking lot, who I said I wanted to be just like in a few more years. Despite the cold, they paused to tell me how long it had been, and congratulate me that I was on the same path, albeit over twenty five years shy of their mark.
- Target Tommy: This guy was the six-foot-three (yeah, I asked) Target cashier who laughed heartily, and shared that he was the tallest member of his family. I warned him that he might be adopted, and his parents just didn’t know how to tell him. He smiled, red-ears and all, and told me he’d be prepared for the conversation that was coming.
- Game Stop Geeks: Let’s just say when the first and second attempts don’t work … these guys at least have the patience to answer the gaming questions I didn’t even know I should be asking. Caught somewhere between new-age hipsters and middle school mentalities, they must’ve covered every option for my son’s Christmas gifts, in-between discussing how Nintendo is a corporate pain-in-the-bean bag chair, and what Lego Dimensions are worth my time.
- Best Buy Mike: At my wit’s end, and near a breakdown, this was my last tech-attempt of the night. I met Mike, and quickly shared with him that my son said he, “Wouldn’t give up on Santa,” though the dumb gaming system he asked for is no longer being made, and costs a fortune! We sat, arms folded considering for a good ten minute conversation. It included Mike role-playing a nine-year-old Christmas reenactment. He laughed, I laughed, and though I still didn’t have everything “done,” I felt alright with the world once more.
- Beth: The smoothie maker at Costco, who asked to show us a demonstration, then when I said we didn’t have time due to going to deliver food to a family in need, stopped us to donate a thirty dollar container of protein mix, for free. She cried. I cried.
There were a dozen other miniature moments just like that. From Michelle, the mother waiting for her college son to make it through the storm in the bookstore, to Dino, the elderly man left alone at a table as his daughter shopped, who accepted the water I gave him with a warm, rough, dry-handshake and smile. People always say that shopping is a nightmare, but I’d say … if you really take the time to be, “more interested in people than in things,” it’s a way to restore humanity simply because you’re exposed to so many different lives in one day.
Maybe nine to seven is nuts … certifiable even … but today, I don’t feel exhausted, I feel inspired. People are the point after all.
Be blessed, and be a blessing to others simply because you can.