CONVERSATION IN THE CROWD
First, I really didn’t want to be there: in line at JC PENNYS exchanging and purchasing during the Christmas holidays…ugh (throws head back and rolls eyes). Even in the best of times I need to “gear myself up” to be in a place with lots of people – I truly am an introvert at heart. But there I was, along with millions who had thronged there to purchase last-minute gifts, etc. The cashiers were shockingly patient and gracious, the line was long, and the store was packed (The Chipmunks singing over the speakers only added to my intense desire to be back in my car.)
And then she started talking. The woman in front of me. Did I know her? I didn’t think so. I looked up, she was looking at me. Now, there are many people who know or think they know me – and I haven’t the foggiest sometimes as to whom they might be, but I act as though I know them. It dawned on me I wasn’t listening to her, and so I smiled and paid attention.
“…I don’t know if Linda would like that or not.” Pointing to the hair-removal thing hanging on the “impulse purchase” stand next to us in line. “I know she said she wanted one, can you hand me that, please?”
“No, she wants the one for facial hair.”
I am creating a picture of Linda, whom I’ve never met, at this very moment and thinking of the circus.
“Is there one there for faces? Oh yes, there’s just the one, can you put this back and grab it for me?”
“You know since she took the boys and moved, I don’t see her OR them often enough to know what they really like, so I have to hang on every word they DO say to have any hint as to what to get them.”
I smiled and said something affirming. She went on.
“Christmas is hard, especially when the family doesn’t talk to each other like they used to. I certainly hope I can get a gift card up there, do you know if they sell those at the register?”
I assured her they did, as I saw Hanukkah, Holiday, and Christmas themed gift cards from where I was standing. We moved forward 8 inches.
“I don’t know what I’ll do for Christmas dinner…last year I went to Cracker Barrel, it was nice and I didn’t really have to do anything but eat. I miss cooking for them all, but what are you going to do?”
At this rhetorical question the Spirit stepped in, tapped me on the shoulder, and told me to pay attention.
“No one really prepares you to go from a large family to being alone you know. Oooo…look at that! Godiva Chocolates…do you really think those are Godiva? I can’t really afford those, but…”
“Can I get some for you? I heard my mouth say.
“What? Oh no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…” she sputtered, embarrassed now.
“I am going to get some for myself anyway.” I lied, “Let me get you some.”
I picked up the package and held it with my stuff as she continued to talk about “Linda and the boys” until the next register was available.
Then mine was up, next to hers, I paid for the chocolate and all and handed her a package of dark chocolate and carmel. She reached over, and then she patted (actually patted) my hand and smiled at me…and left.
I stood at the register, paid, and went out of the store.
“What was that about?” I said to myself and the Spirit.
“It was a Christmas miracle.” I heard back.
As I was thinking/arguing that it was hardly a “miracle” for her that SHE found a stranger to talk to in line, about people I didn’t know or really care about…or that I bought her some chocolate. Even though, as I listened to her go on about life changes, and family dynamics, I realized how bittersweet the season is for some. As much as I wanted out of that store and away from that crowd, I was thankful for a moment to see a “person” in the “crowd”. She connected with me, with one person, and for that thirty minutes she wasn’t just a face.
In any case, I said again to the Spirit and myself, “I doubt very much she even remembers our conversation at this moment. I doubt that I was much of a miracle for her.”
To which I heard, in reply…
“Who said anything about YOU being HER Christmas miracle?”