No matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, this is the season for giving. It’s a lesson we generally learn from our families as we grow up, and I was truly lucky to be born to a mother who set this example for me every day of my life. She still does. But a Christmas gift I received as a child taught me an incredible lesson about the ripple effects of kindness and generosity. It’s a lesson I still think about every year at Christmas time.
A couple of weeks before my sixth Christmas, my best friend’s mother took us to a holiday craft bazaar where I saw the most beautiful Christmas ornament I’d ever seen. It was perfectly round, about the size of a baseball and it was completely covered in layers of green, blue and gold sequins and beads. In all my six years I had never seen such a treasure. The price tag said $3 and I only had two shiny quarters. I wandered around the bazaar, but kept coming back to that one booth, looking longingly at that glorious ornament. Finally, I found the courage to tell the man what a beautiful ornament it was.
“Thank you, young lady. Do you have a Christmas tree at home?”
“Yes, sir,” I said. “And if I had the money, I would buy this ornament!” He smiled kindly and turned his attention to a paying customer.
A short time later we were leaving the bazaar and I heard a man’s voice calling behind me, “Young lady! Young lady with the red coat!”
I realized I was wearing a red coat, so I turned around to see the man who made that sparkly ornament trying to catch up to me. “Do you think you could do me a favor?” he asked. “I have been looking for someone special to give this ornament a good home. Someone who will take very good care of it year after year,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
“I can’t pay for this ornament, sir,” I said.
“No, this is my GIFT to you,” the man explained. “I know how much you love it and I can tell you are a special girl. I really want you to have it. All I ask is that you remember me each Christmas when you hang it on your tree,” he said with a wink.
I didn’t know what a lottery was, but I felt like I’d won it that day!
Each Christmas as I grew, I would hang my exquisite ornament on the tree with pride, and each year I would say a word of thanks to the kind man who gave me such a special gift; a man I never saw again.
I’m not sure whatever happened to that sparkling ornament; it’s been many Christmases since I’ve seen it on my mom’s tree. But as an adult, I realize I received a much bigger gift all those years ago. A gift I’ve treasured all my life: The knowledge that small gestures can produce powerful results.
Four decades later I still remember that man each Christmas. That is what this holiday season is all about. We don’t always know the ripple effects our kindness and generosity will have on others — how that gift of money or time might impact someone — but knowing the powerful potential we have to make a difference to others, why wouldn’t we share our gifts at holiday time, and all year long?
Chrys Peterson is a correspondent for ProMedica HealthConnect and spokeswoman for Friends for Life, a monthly newsletter for women that offers health and wellness advice with a focus on cancer prevention.