Each Christmas I trudge store to store in search of the perfect gifts that will delight, amaze, and astonish.
My motives are clearly admirable, but the result of all that trekking causes me to thrash around in frustration, irritability and price-escalation-disgust. At that point, Christmas becomes less a joy and more a chore.
After purchasing multiple gifts, I juggle everything to the car, drive home, plop the contents on my bed, organize the items, (hoping to remember who gets what) and drag out the wrapping paper. Since I have hundreds of children and grandchildren, the boxing, tissue-papering, wrapping, labeling seem endless. (Note: I don’t really have hundreds of children and grandchildren. To my alert readers that already know this, you have earned 100 In Spite Of Myself readership-points.)
After several discussions with my adult kids about my determination to put the “Christ” back in Christmas, I was getting a little depressed about my attitude. But a few days ago, my attitude experienced a profound adjustment.
“How much do they cost?” I asked.
“They’re free,” she said, smiling.
Free? Nothing’s really free, anymore, is it? Besides, she was smiling, and that is not normal for a counter clerk in the northeast. My eyes were tiny slits. I sensed a con coming. Maybe they wanted me to fill out the application for their credit card or call a number and fill out a survey.
She bent down to retrieve several boxes from under the counter, and pushed them into the bag with my purchases. Then she shocked me by not requesting a credit card app or a survey, and furthermore, she continued, “Do you want free gift wrapping? In Customer Service upstairs?”
I peeked in my bags at the twelve-ish items I’d purchased. “They’ll wrap all this, um, for nothing?” She nodded, yawned, and crossed her arms, waiting. I am unable to formulate a response. The silence stretched from seconds to minutes.
“This happens all the time,” she said, breaking the silence, and shrugged. “People don’t believe me. They go into kind of a “shock” mode for a few minutes. I have to wait until they can talk again.” She uncrossed her arms, placed her palms on the counter, leaned toward me and whispered, “But if you don’t go upstairs right now, you’ll have to stand in a long line later, when the after-work shopping crowd comes in.”
My “shock” faded, and I was able to manage a few squeaks as I tried to speak. I felt the tiniest sparks of Christmas joy return. After clearing my throat, I shouted,” Thanks! And Merry Christmas!” as I sprinted to the escalator.
I slid to a stop in front of Customer Service, panting a little. The clerk, who was wearing a jaunty, red Santa hat, stepped right up. She smiled, and counted the packages. My eyes devolved into suspicious slits again, because I was thinking, could anyone really be happy about wrapping twelve little boxes?
“What paper would you like?” she asked, and waved to a nice assortment on the wall. “And how do you want me to indicate each recipient?”
After I picked myself up off the floor, we came up with an efficient labeling plan. She had them wrapped in less than ten minutes, AND labeled. Then she asked what kind of bows I wanted on each. To top it off, when everything was conveniently bagged, she handed the bundle to me and said, “Merry Christmas! They are going to love these gifts!”
I felt the corners of my mouth tug upward. Not only had I enjoyed a ten-minute break in a comfy chair provided for Customer-Service-attendees, I had experienced generosity, friendliness, and a huge dose of Christmas spirit. I thanked her profusely, and walked to the escalator.
Boscov’s decision to lighten the load of Christmas shoppers had a restorative effect on me. If I’d purchased these items and left the store without experiencing the miracle of free-gift-wrap-with-a-smile, I would’ve driven home in a bah humbug mood. Thanks to Boscov’s, the drive home was a floaty mix of Christmas carols on XM radio and happy memories of Christmases past.
What is it about a generous heart? A smile from a stranger? A desire to help?
I know what it is.