Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day. ~Quoted in P.S. I Love You, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Christmas shopping. It’s just not as they portray it in the commercials. Where are the happy people dancing in sequence down the aisles, with cheery Christmas music blaring in the background?
On a recent shopping excursion, I believe I may have been sucked into a vortex of negativity, stuck in a store with the most negative people on the planet. I was bumped, and growled at; I was witness to more than one parent completely melting down with their children. I was also witness to more than one child not really understanding the “reason for the season. ”
I find the holiday season to be bittersweet for me. As a self-proclaimed “occasion girl” I have always loved this time of year. But, as with anyone who has lost someone important, it is also a time when you are painfully reminded that there is one less person to shop for this year.
That first December after Stephen died, I could barely breathe in the stores. I remember standing in a quiet aisle of car cleaning supplies drying my tears with one of those expensive wash clothes for your car. Don’t tell Target, but I put it back on the rack.
I stood there for more than twenty minutes, simply trying to inhale so the pain in my chest would subside, and I could gather the remaining items on my list.
This year, I am stronger, but I still have moments where the thought of Christmas without Stephen is still very difficult to think about. It is especially hard when I shop, and I see things I know he would like or laugh about.
So, as you can probably imagine, my emotions were getting the best of me as I pushed my cart through the aisles of Target, watching people….just take life for granted.
I had to physically remove myself from the Mom yelling at her daughter so I did not confront her with the ravings of a bereaved parent. Did she not know how truly blessed she was to have this little girl looking up at her, even if it was only to ask for the $49.99 doll only days before Christmas?
In any case, all the growling and bumping and bah-humbugging just got the best of me. And, when I pulled into the parking lot of the final store on my shopping excursion, I just sat in the car for a moment, and had…..well, a moment. I was missing Stephen, and thinking back over the Christmases gone by…in particular, I was remembering Christmas Eve when he was a small baby, maybe eight months old. He had these two lonely teeth on the bottom, and would grin on command and proudly show them to you. It was one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received.
So there I was, sitting in my car, reminiscing about the magic of Stephen at Christmas. Missing him, and wishing that I could explain to my fellow shoppers about the importance of being present in the moment, of just being happy because you never know what is around the corner.
I finally mustered up the courage to brave the final store, and stepped out of my car.
Where I was abruptly met by……a toothy grin. It was as if Stephen sent me a smile from heaven to remind me that he is always with me, and that love never dies.
It was the toothy grin of a baby girl, out for a day of shopping with her mom. She was sitting in the cart, and she lit up as soon as we made eye contact, and her smile was brighter than any Christmas bulb I’ve ever seen. It was as if some invisible director pointed to her and yelled “Action!”
I burst out laughing, and the mother popped her head out of the car and smiled. I told her that her little sweetheart just made my day. Her mother replied that she does that, gives out those “two tooth smiles” just when you need it the most.
Boy, was she right.
So, two things to remember. Take a nice deep cleansing breath if you are shopping today. Think about the reason for the season, be present in the beauty that is now, don’t miss it. Make a point to give away some smiles, I’m telling you, it works. And if it doesn’t work, at least you’ll make some people nervous.
Second thing, look for those toothy grins. I believe that God brings them to us when we need them the most, to show us He is listening and comforting us. It is up to us to look for and notice them.
Take some time today to spread some of the good stuff around,