My Christmas Shopping is nearly complete. I cheated a little bit this year. I chose gifts that could be purchased outside of the mall. I am not a big fan of shopping throughout the holidays. I think it’s because everyone in the mall looks so miserable. The children are dragging their coats and gloves behind, while overworked clerks roll their eyes, and lone adults appear extraordinarily tired. I think it’s so funny how a holiday that is meant to bring so much joy and hope, actually brings about so much stress and exhaustion.
When I do venture into the mall I make a point to create a list so that I can zoom in and out of stores. I try not to linger or browse, whenever that happens I end up unexpectedly spending. But I always take the time to talk with the cashiers as they ring up my items in the checkout line. I think I inherited the talk to every stranger you see gene from my parents. Actually I have found throughout the years that the friendlier I am, the happier the store clerks seem to become. I think it’s that old philosophy that when you smile at someone, they unconsciously smile back at you.
I also make a point to let older shoppers move ahead of me in line. This tradition started years ago when an older gentlemen was stuck in a long line in Macy’s. He looked physically exhausted, but there he was with two of those stuffed bears they sell at Christmas time. One under his left arm, the other under his right. I watched him shift his weight from one side to the next, over and over again. Then finally, I asked a young girl in front of him, if she would mind letting him go first. He was so grateful and appreciative. When he got to the head of the line he leaned all of his body weight against the counter out of pure exhaustion. But when he walked away from the counter he pointed to the bag of stuffed animals and smiled. It’s funny how a little memory like that will stick with you forever.
So while I was leaving the mall the other day I noticed an older woman sitting alone on a bench near the exit. It was a sight I wish I could have captured with a camera. The corner of her lips were turned down, her eyes glazed over as she stared at the floor. The contrast of her gray sweater and black coat to the bright red bags and packages surrounding her, seemed all wrong. Surrounded by all those gifts it seems she should have been much happier. In the hustle and bustle of the mall I bet fifty people had walked past her without even noticing. I stopped and smiled and told her that all those gifts were going to make someone feel very special. She looked up and smiled. I don’t know how long her smile lasted, but it was contagious enough to keep me smiling for quite awhile.