Friday, December 19, 2014

How a Stranger Restored My Christmas Spirit

My Christmas spirit deserted me until a stranger’s words revived 
my belief in the magic of the season.

Everyday pressures and the news of the world overwhelmed me this year to the point that Christmas lost its meaning.  As the season approached, nothing lifted my spirits.  The flickering lights and glimmering tinsel on our Christmas tree didn’t do it.  Watching my favorite Christmas movie didn’t do it.  Even the joy I felt after spending an afternoon baking Christmas cookies with my grandkids deserted me as soon as their cheery voices faded away.

Everything overwhelmed.  Two days ago we cancelled our plans for our anniversary dinner after an unexpected visit from a family member.  Yesterday, unforeseen responsibilities again upset our plans.  So this morning, filled with determination rather than joy, we left home armed with a numbered, to-do list, our Christmas gift list, packages, sizes, addresses, a fistful of sales flyers, and the intent to celebrate our anniversary with lunch and a movie.  After a half hour delay to return home to pick up forgotten gifts that needed to be delivered, we headed off to our favorite restaurant. 

With little thought, I suddenly heard myself say, “Let’s eat lunch there.” as we passed an unfamiliar eatery.  My husband shrugged and nodded his agreement.  I was paying to park when I heard him speaking to someone.

I turned to see him talking to a young woman in a car with another woman and a young boy.  She was asking directions in good, but halting English.  She seemed confused by his directions. 

He explained again … and again, yet she didn’t move.  Sensing her distress, I joined in, trying to give more exact directions.  We were standing out in the cold on a sidewalk, just seconds from finally celebrating our anniversary.  Traffic zipped past as we each struggled to be understood. 

She thought we were leaving the restaurant and asked us to lead her to the address she was looking for.  We said we just arrived and would lose the money we paid to park.  She offered to pay for our parking if we would help her.  I finally offered to draw a map.  While my husband went to get pen and paper, she told me she had been looking for the Toys for Tots address since 9 a.m. … it was now 2 p.m.  They had been driving around the same few blocks for hours, confused by construction, one-way streets, east-west address changes, and a language barrier. 

I made up my mind to help.  I offered to ride with her to show her the way and she could bring me back.  She said, “No, I couldn’t.  I don’t want to lose you!”  We smiled at each other.  When my husband returned I told him we were going to lead her where she needed to go.  He agreed with a smile and we returned to our car and backed out. 

No, I couldn't.  I don't want to lose you!

We nearly lost her car a couple of times due to heavy traffic and changing lights, but about ten minutes later, arrived at Toys for Tots.  We got out and hugged.  She said, “Thank you, thank you.  You are so kind.  I will never forget you.  This was my first time driving here.”  Her young son thanked us and with a huge grin, jumped out of the car and ran up the front steps. 

Her heartfelt words were an unexpected gift, 
rekindling my joy in the season.  

We left, our Christmas spirit returned through the simple words of a stranger for the gift of kindness.  Our parking place was waiting for us when we returned to the restaurant. 

Merry Christmas to you all as you celebrate this time of year in your own special way.  Writing North Idaho is going to take a couple of weeks off and we will return with regular blogs on January 5.  


Jennifer Rova said...

What an uplifting story! We forget in the hustle of the holidays, in the cookie baking, present buying, gift wrapping and tree decorating that the greatest gift is what we give to others through our kind hearts and actions. You and your husband displayed this with your concerted effort to help a family who needed you. Your Christmas is a little brighter and so is ours for reading your story.

Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

Oh what a lovely story. My stress involved being downcast because my paper whites blossomed a week early. Honestly, what happens to us? Your story put me in the spirit, and I truly appreciate it.