December 18, 2011
I’ve often heard it said that the the Christmas season brings out niceness in people. That’s probably true. During this Christmas season I’ve observed and experienced a good amount of niceness going on, even in situations and places I least expect it. Here’s a recent example from my own experience.
My wife, Joan, and I went shopping at Walmart. Now I have nothing against Walmart. However, whether it’s at Walmart or some other department store, it’s just not a place I expect to see or feel niceness, especially during the Christmas season.
I look at it this way. Shopping is just one of the routines of life you have to do now and then. Like getting you car filled with gas. So get it done as quickly as possible and get out. So I wasn’t expecting niceness. But I was “nicely” surprised when I found some. Not just once, but three times in the space of about an hour.
First, I should explain that Joan is significantly disabled. She has great difficulty getting around. But she can do what needs to be done, slowly but surely. One of the things she has to do is get in and out of the car. Getting in is easy. Getting out is more difficult, but usually she can do it with the help of her cane. However, on this day, that wasn’t working. Just as I was about to open the car door to come around to help her out, a young woman stopped and ask Joan if she could help. Before I knew it this woman had gotten Joan out of the car. We thanked her and she left. This was the first expereince of niceness shopping at WalMart that day.
We went into the store and separated to get the things on our list. It saves time if she gets some things and I get other things. We finished our shopping and I took the stuff to the checkout line. I got in what seemed to be the shortest line. However, after a few minutes I realized that the line wasn’t going anywhere. So I moved to the next line. But another person got there at the same time. She only had two or three items. I wondered why she didn’t go to the express line. She asked if she could go first, since she only had those few items. I said “sure, go right ahead”. She placed her three items on the counter as soon as the person ahead of her was done. Now here comes my second experience with niceness while shopping at Walmart that day. This woman turns to me and says “could I help you unload your cart? You were so nice to me and you have a lot of stuff”. So together we emptied my cart. The cashier was nice too. she even commented on how nice it was for us to have helped each other .
Now here’s my third experience with niceness while shopping at Walmart that day. When we entered the store it was unseasonably warm. So I took off my jacket and placed it in the cart. Well, it turned out that the cart I chose was one of those where the wheels were out of alignment and it didn’t work too well, so I got me a different cart. When Joan and I finished shopping, I combined our purchases into my cart and went to the checkout line as previously mentioned. About that time I noticed that my jacket wasn’t in the cart. This was right before the woman in front of me asked if she could help unload my cart. Just as I was contemplating how nice she was, a not so nice thought came to mind. I decided that someone had stolen my jacket. It must have happened when I left the cart alone for a few minutes while I was searching for something in another aisle.
I didn’t see anything nice about that. Another thing that was not going to be nice was that in a few minutes I would have to tell Joan that I lost my jacket. I remembered her response when 14 or 15 years ago I told her that I had lost my previous jacket. She was not happy about that. What happened at that time was that some of the people from the church where I was the pastor and I had gone to an inner city church to assist with their lunch program for the homeless people in the area. When everything was finished I went to the coat rack to get my jacket and it was gone. The thought that came to my mind was something like “the nerve of these people. I come here to help them and they steal my jacket. ” The pastor then asked me what was wrong. I told him. Then he asked me where I hung my jacket. I pointed to the coat rack. Then he said “Oh, that’s the give away rack. We put used clothes on it and let the people who come here know that if they see anything they need, just take it”. At which time I felt embarrassed and in need of forgiveness for jumping to conclusions.
Now back to the Walmart. I told Joan that someone stole my jacket. She didn’t get really upset. She said “how did that happen? When you switched carts, didn’t you move the jacket to the new cart”? At which time, I went to the customer service counter and asked if anyone had recently turned in a blue jacket. A minute later the man at the counter handed me my jacket. Again, I felt a bit embarrassed at jumping to the conclusion that someone had stolen my jacket. Then I realized that this was another instance of niceness while shopping at Walmart that day. And in this case, the niceness that had been bestowed upon me was provided by someone who I hadn’t even met.
Later that day, when I realized I had personally experienced all that niceness in a setting where I didn’t expect to find any, I also realized that God had given me all these incidents and people as signs of hope. Hope for the eventual fulfillment of what most Christians, including myself, pray for every Sunday at church. “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”. God was reminding and reassuring me that He is always in the process of moving people toward participating with Him in sharing His love with each other. I believe that’s what Christmas is about, because that’s what Jesus is about. That’s what heaven is about. It’s about love. God’s love for us. Yes, during this Christmas season, while shopping at Walmart that day, God was at work bestowing His love upon me through the loving words and actions of these people I have mentioned. And in all this, I also experienced just a little foretaste – a preview- of what I believe heaven is like.
But there’s more . It gets even better. I expect to tell you about that next week.