These last few months have been somewhat...hectic . Especially once we hit holiday season. I started noticing the increase in traffic and shoppers all the way back in September. It didn't help that everything seemed to start so much earlier this year (Christmas and Halloween decorations put out at the same time!?) and people are in a bigger rush than ever before. Once we hit November, forget about it. Stores became constantly packed, as well as the roads filled with what seems to be every crazy driver on the planet.
It got so busy, and people got so crazy, that I was ready to set up a plan so I wouldn't have to shop or do a whole lot for the month of December. Traffic hour became such a nightmare that it would take over an hour to get home from somewhere that was only 15 minutes away. The rudeness of people never ceased to amaze me. People yelling at each other in their cars and people yelling at each other, or worse, at the stores. People constantly giving other people rude looks. Watching all of those insane videos of what WalMart looked like on black Friday. People having car trouble and stalling in the middle of the street get nothing but honks and obscenities thrown their way, instead of someone trying to actually help them out. Someone screaming at someone else for cutting in line at the store. People actually having the nerve to cut in front of other people in line at the store. It never seemed to end! It made me completely irritated and frustrated. And sad.
I was done. I wanted out. I was actually starting to not feel in the Christmas spirit this year. Everything was just moving too fast. Luckily, I'm pretty much done with our Christmas shopping (minus a few odds and ends pieces to pick up) and my maternity leave started last week. So I was planning to not stray very far from our house unless I absolutely had to (Hubby on the other hand likes to do Christmas shopping in the weeks leading up to Christmas because that is when all of the "good" deals are. As I've said before, if he has the patience for that, more power to him!). While we already have most of the presents for the kids bought and hidden, I had one more trip to Toys "R" Us to make to pick up a layaway for a few things that I had started way back at the end of September.
That was today.....and who would have thought that the quick trip to the toy store would change my entire outlook this holiday season.
I went to Toys "R" Us this afternoon to pay off and pick up said layaway. Only to find out that earlier that morning, a woman went in and paid off everyone's layaway balance. Everyone's balance! I was stunned. I made the associate helping me double-check to make sure it wasn't a mistake. It was not. Tears filled my eyes and I didn't even know what to say. I didn't even have that much of a balance left anyway...but some people did. And the thought of someone doing something to bring so much happiness to so many people touched my heart in a way that I couldn't explain. Talk about a blessing! I mean, I've heard about people out there doing this kind of thing, but never to anyone I know. And here I was an actual recipient of such an amazing act of kindness.
The first thing I did was ask if this woman had left any contact information. She had not. The second thing I thought was how I was going to pay it forward. I have a couple of ideas (maybe pay for that person behind me at Starbucks? Or maybe I'll get even more creative) but then I thought why stop there? In this busy holiday season, even a smile or polite conversation with someone can change their entire day. This whole situation made me actually think about what is really going on. I was so frustrated to go out shopping and even found myself asking, "why are people so stupid!?" on more than one occasion. Then today happened. Talk about a wake-up call! It's a huge reminder that there are still good people out there. It makes me think about the real reason for the holidays.
While explaining to the kids the real reason behind Christmas and how it is more important to give than to receive, those words get so easily lost in the commercialized world we live in. The world where it is now required for many employees to work on the holidays. A world that takes days that are meant to be spent with family and friends and to be thankful for what we have...and exploit them for more money. Everyone gets caught up in it. The sales, the need to buy more and more...it can turn a person ugly really fast. I've seen it so much this season. But it doesn't have to be that way. The sad thing is how easy it actually is to make everything more pleasant for everyone. It takes no time at all and costs absolutely nothing to smile at someone else while shopping. It takes less effort to say some kind words or start a pleasant conversation than it would to complain and make a scene because that retail associate is not ringing up your items fast enough. Instead of throwing a fit because you have been waiting in line for 5 minutes, why not compliment the person standing behind you? I have made and built some good friendships that started in the most random of ways in the most random of places. It becomes baffling to think that the smallest and easiest things to make everyone's life a little bit happier and easier, are the hardest for people to do.
So why don't we all try it? Yes, it will be a challenge for some but maybe we will be able to see a small difference. Of course there are some things that are out of our hands. We can't make people drive better and there's nothing we can do to change the attitude on that jerk who stole your parking spot. But if we all went out for just one day this whole month - that's one day only - and made it our mission to just be nice to everyone...well, think about that. Think about the difference it would make. You don't need to have a lot of money to be able pay it forward.
Also, to that woman out there who did the incredible thing you did today: thank you from the bottom of my heart. You didn't just help pay for some toys for my children. You softened my heart and helped me to see the better side of people this Christmas. You are truly amazing.