An unexpected gift

Hmmm, December 7, “a date which will live in infamy,” President Franklin Roosevelt.  I’m guessing I’m not the only one when seeing this calendar date doesn’t somehow know it sounds familiar.  Even for those of us not alive then, or those who don’t have a modicum of passion for history as some of us do, I’m still guessing seeing and/or hearing this date strikes a chord.  2,300 lives lost in the midst of one of the most beautiful settings in the world.  Such a surreal contrast to even try and imagine.  I have not yet visited the memorial and understand from those who have that it is deeply moving.  The empty chairs in Oklahoma City to offer remembrance of that act of terror; the 9-11 Memorial and Museum alongside One World Trade Center/the Freedom Tower acknowledge the terrorist attack of violence in 2001 and the 2,977 lives lost, 2,753 at that site.  I know I’m not the only one who would feel absolutely great if no more memorials would have to be built, or services created to remember, or lists of names read and people standing to represent them ever had to happen again.  We could simply decide to be done with violence against one another knowing that everyone is someone’s son or daughter, niece or nephew, mom or dad, aunt or uncle, or best friend. Sigh. Unrealistic some would remind me.

Today, today I’m going to choose to see and know the beauty that God has created in the lives and hearts of waaaaay more of God’s people than we will ever know.  And I don’t have to look far and wide, not even a little bit.  I was finishing my day last night, I decided the best ending to the day would be a chocolate Frosty, I was closer to Wendy’s which is closer to my house than DQ and a blizzard.  I pulled up and there was a line in the drive-thru.  It’s way past dinner time, why should there be a line this late when all I want is one small chocolate frosty?!?  There was a car behind me, so no chance for escape, so I turned up the Christmas radio station, and started playing my latest new phone game, Toon Blast.  I have no idea why it’s named that, and the fact that it has a bear icon that might remind me a little of the toilet tissue “my hiney’s clean” bears which I quite frankly dislike to a great degree, all that notwithstanding, there’s something satisfying about matching colors and shapes and having them explode off the screen.  So I’m playing my game, the line is s-l-o-w-l-y inching forward.  I make my order, get to the window, AND this nice young man hands me the frosty with a smile and tells me to have a nice night.  I say, you too, and stick out a twenty which I know will take care of it.  Nah, he says, just have a nice night, ma’am, and thanks for still being happy when you ordered – have a merry Christmas.  He was probably a third or more my age, is working at Wendy’s late in the evening on a random Tuesday in December, had a big grin simply because I was happy to order a chocolate frosty at a drive-thru.  I asked if he was serious and would it come out of his pay, and he simply said it was all good and to enjoy my frosty.

Maybe the person in front of me had paid too much or decided to pay it forward, he didn’t say that.  Maybe his manager said the wait in line was long enough that one free frosty to one gray-haired ghost wouldn’t ruin their business.  Maybe he is just a happy guy that does nice things.  And maybe figuring it out doesn’t really matter, even for a long-time overthinker.  As I drove away I realized I had forgotten to invite him to Grace!  I try and always do that, and I forgot!  And maybe this once, that’s o.k. too.

On the balance of things, one frosty on a random night does not mean that war and violence will stop in the next few days.  And/but, I also do not underestimate what one random and anonymous sharing of kindness can do reverberating through the world from corners and places that we will never likely see.  

I am apt to wonder each year where the spirit of Christmas will become real for me.  When will I feel it in my bones, hear it in my soul, have it tickle my heart beyond all knowing.  Yes, it’s our choir and our candles and our angel tree; it’s our shared generosity and care and resources for those in need; it’s our community of faith in the sea of faces that I have known short times and long times and all times.  And sometimes, it’s also kid from a different ethnic background, different life experience, different age and stage who shares a simple gift where his smile and lilt of voice was more Christmas than any other part.

It is December 7, a “date that will live in infamy.”  And there’s all the other days of all the other years of all the other history where God’s people do all kinds of things that are filled with mercy, and generosity, and joie de vivre – a joy in life that cannot be limited or defined.  May Christmas visit you in both the expected and the unexpected gifts and grace in these Advent days.  And may we be that same expected and unexpected gift in our own random ways as well.  Merry journey of Advent!

(link to video)