I’m standing in the middle of a department store, holding six different holiday shopping lists, more bags than I can carry, and a precariously positioned Starbucks iced peppermint mocha when it happens.
My phone pings with yet another text about who wants what as a gift and as I try to type out a reply with one hand, another harried shopper bumps into me from behind. My phone flies into the air and as I reach out to grab it before it hits the ground, I lose my grip on the drink and the bags, which land on the floor in an incredibly impressive and overwhelmingly peppermint scented mess.
Christmas carols ring out over the speakers as shoppers continue their frantic pursuit of gifts and step around me, kicking my lists further and further away from me as they go.
As I struggle to gather my things, I remember all the unkind people I encountered during the day: the guy who cut me off in traffic on the way to the mall, then the other one who honked at me then pulled into the parking place I had been waiting for, and that rude woman who took the last winterforest scented candle off the shelf right out from under me.
Just when I think I might cry, which we all know Santa doesn’t consider good girl behavior, a very kind woman stops and bends down to help me. She pulls out a package of rather dried-up wet wipes from her purse to soak up most of the mocha, offers me one to clean up my sticky hands, and helps put the gifts back into bags. As I try to thank her, she just shakes her head and says, “It’s kindness.”
And it hits me. Give kindness.
You don’t have to worry about whether it will fit since it’s truly one size fits all. You won’t insult anyone by giving them a size that’s too small or too large for them, and unlike jeans or shoes, the bigger the act of kindness the better. It’s more personal than any gift card and something everyone will like. Best of all, it doesn’t cost anything and if it’s regifted, that’s even better. In fact, regifting kindness is always encouraged.
Exchanging kindness works well too. In this world where so many people, even close friends and family members, disagree on so many things, sharing kindness offers the best gift of all. Just because people have different ways of doing things doesn’t make them right or you wrong.
If the holiday food at your sister’s table isn’t quite like grandma used to make or your vegan entree doesn’t turn out right, don’t criticize the cook, whether it’s yourself or others. Be kind. Instead of focusing on or criticizing the details, encourage the effort behind the celebration.
Receiving gifts offers a chance to exchange kindness as well. If someone gives you something you don’t like, something the wrong size, or so clearly not your style, a certain shiny black shirt that was at least two sizes too small comes to mind, receive it with grace.
Not every gift I’ve ever received has been the perfect present, and I know that not every gift I’ve given has been perfect.
If your neighbor brings cookies and you’re on a thirty-day, no sugar challenge, you don’t need to launch into a debate about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle right then. Just smile and thank them. You can share them with guests or find someone who would appreciate them, like the staff member at school who is working long hours to help your kid. the police and firefighters who serve us all year long, or even the Amazon delivery guy who had just dropped off his millionth package of the day at your doorstep.
Keep the spirit of giving in mind rather than focusing on the gift itself and you can see the kindness underneath, like a clumsily wrapped package with something wonderful inside.
So forget all those lists and to do items. This holiday season, give kindness. It’s the perfect gift. Let someone else go first and offer a smile. In the crazy crowded mall, on the hectic highways as everyone rushes around doing last minute errands, in the parking lot or the grocery store or anywhere at all, it can be your gift. Grace and compassion make the perfect wrapping paper.
Tie it all up with a bow of generosity of spirit and it’s a gift you can use all year long.Read More From Catherine
Catherine Gentry is a writer living in Houston, Texas. She retired from practicing law to raise her three nearly grown children, and her writing has been featured online at Literary Mama, Grown & Flown, the “Voices” section of the Princeton Alumni magazine, and in the Houston Chronicle, as well as on her blog, “Words Count” https://catherinewordscount.wordpress.com/featured-writing/