Monday, December 15, 2014

How $5 Made Me Find the Christmas Magic

My family calls me McJingle, the Queen of Christmas.

I have a perfectly lined out set of traditions that we enjoy each year that always result in the Perfect Christmas. My home is decorated from top to bottom in all things sparkly, festive, and pine scented. Throughout the glorious month of December I don't watch movies or listen to music that does not have Christmas cheer!

While -thank goodness- my family still loves me for it, sometimes I do tend to go a little overboard. Loads of gifts (never adhering to our set price limit), soooo many desserts, too many events scheduled on one night... but at the end of each year I think that certain Christmas has always topped the last.

While I've only ever had the most wonderful of Christmases, a few special Christmases still stick out in my mind. I've been thinking lately about why and how those Christmases managed to have an extra abundance of Christmas magic despite following our same set of traditions to the letter of the law. I have realized it is because on those Christmases we were blessed with something unexpected, something we didn't plan or organize. They were Christmases that were blessed by opportunities to serve, or to be served. Usually the most marvelous of Christmases have come from a place of meekness, humility, and love. Not lavish decorations or overspending. This month, each night I have prayed that I would feel the full extent of Christmas magic this glorious season.

This morning I decided to go and buy some more gifts that I had my eye on. I wanted my nieces and nephew's eyes to be full of wonder when they opened my gifts and I didn't think I got them enough yet. I already bought my husband some nice gifts but I love watching him open presents so much I realized I needed to get him more or else he would be done unwrapping too soon. I wanted another shade of Gold wrapping paper. I wanted get another Ugly Christmas sweater to top last year's. So much magic to create and only nine days until Christmas Eve!

I had conquered four stores and my front and back seats were full of sacks of Christmas joy. It was easy to quickly spend what I had spent months saving. The only thing left on my list was to find another Ugly Christmas sweater so I drove to Bountiful to go to the second hand store.

I walked in and went straight to the Christmas aisle. I was digging through so much junk that I didn't even notice the older woman beside me doing the same.

"So many wonderful treasures to look at isn't there?" I looked up from where I was squatting to see her smiling kindly at me with her straight white hair and worn coat. "Are you looking for anything special? There are some beautiful cookie tins down there for only a quarter!"

I glanced down the aisle and didn't know what to say. I didn't want to tell her I was here looking for something hilariously hideous when she was having so much fun finding treasures.

"Oh I'm pretty set on cookie tins, but thank you!" I replied and then glanced in her cart to see if she had gotten any tins. The only item she had in there was a red, silver, and green shining 2 foot tall Christmas tree made from stacked glued together ornaments. "That's a very good find though!" I pointed to her cart. "That's really pretty."

She smiled and ever so gently lifted the tree and twirled it around for me to admire. "Oh isn't it?" She breathed. I noticed some ornaments were cracked and a few others were coming unglued but she was looking at it like it was the most beautiful thing she had seen.

 "I'm putting it on my Abigail's grave." Her voice was hushed as she stared at the glittering bulbs. Her eyes seemed to hold many memories behind them as she gazed. "I think it's shiny enough that she will see it when she looks down from Heaven."

I felt timid and didn't know what to say. "Oh. I think it's plenty shiny to be seen. She will love it." I swallowed hard.

"It's only fifty cents too!" She put it carefully back into her cart. "That means I can afford it."

I smiled at her and nodded and turned away. I wandered through the aisles and passed her a few times, still nothing else in her cart but that tree. A few minutes later I headed to the check out stands. The lady in front of me was chatting with the two woman cashiers. When I leaned passed her, I saw that on the checkout stand was the ornament tree! I wondered if maybe the older woman I met had found something else and put it back. I figured the lady in front of me must have found it and bought it, but as she paid the cashier and gathered her bags, the tree was still there. When the automatic doors opened to let her out I saw the white haired lady walking to her car with her hands empty.

"Excuse me," I said quickly to the cashier. "Do you know why that woman who had the tree decided not to buy it? I know she really wanted it to put on her daughter's grave."

The clerk looked confused as she followed my gaze to the woman getting in her car. "Oh, she brought it up here to buy it and thought it was fifty cents but it was really $5.00." She turned and showed me the tag. "She didn't have enough."

"Will you ring this up with my stuff? I'd like to get it for her." I reached in my purse and slammed down some cash on the counter and grabbed the tree and ran through the doors. I saw her in her car with her face in her hands. She was massaging her temples with her thumbs dejectedly. My heart started to pound as I jogged to her and I suddenly felt very shy.

I tapped on her window and she looked up with a start and opened the door.

"Hi." I said nervously, "I think this tree is really beautiful and I think it needs to be on your daughter's grave so she can see it from Heaven."

The woman fumbled. "Oh well I thought it was fifty cents and I got to the register and it was $5.00. That's more than I have. It was so expensive."

My legs went numb. "It is expensive, but I think it is worth it and it would make me very happy to give it to you." I thrust it into her hands.

I will never forget her sweet face shining with tears as she clutched the worn tree to her chest and looked at me. "Thank you Angel, thank you."

I could only choke out "Merry Christmas" and turn before she could see me cry. I felt my heart bursting with both sadness and joy. I ran back inside to finish my purchase. I looked up to see a few workers had been watching from the window, both with tears in their eyes.

The woman blinked very fast as she bagged my things. "That was something else." The other woman patted her chest and said, "You don't understand the wonderful Christmas memory you have left me with today." I smiled a watery smile at them and left the store.

I felt so warm. This was it, this was true Christmas Magic. I could feel it! I didn't come from hundreds of dollars worth of gifts sitting in the backseat. It didn't come from matching wrapping paper. How caught up I had been in all of the wrong Christmas ideals! What a small amount of money to make me feel this way!

I suddenly felt so blessed and so loved. Any of us would have given the five dollars so the woman could buy her gift. This story is not about me, or about the simple $5. The act itself was not miraculous. The true miracle was being at the right place at the right time and being given such a precious moment of love and humility and true Christmas joy. Our father in Heaven is so mindful of us. He knows our hearts and blesses us with such opportunities to feel of that Christ-like love. He knows how much I adore this time of year, and I know that today he gave me this moment as a gentle reminder about why I love it.

I don't think giving gifts is wrong. I find so much happiness in watching others open my gifts for them, but I do think the truest gifts are not just from Best Buy. The best gifts are ones that remind others of your love for them. Just like the sweet white haired lady would have given all of her $5.00 to remind her daughter of her love at Christmas time, her gift was the greatest because she truly was giving all she had to give.

This makes me think of the Widow's Mite and our Savior. When we give all we have to give, it is truly enough. Thanks to his mercy and grace, we will never find ourselves short. Do we give enough? Do we serve enough? Do we give all we have to our Lord so that our gifts are the most precious to him? What perfect gift can I give my Savior this year?

This morning I felt it in my heart and I never wanted to let go. TRUE CHRISTMAS MAGIC. What an invaluable gift I was given through such a simple act. Christmas may be filled with all things sparkly and ornate and lavish, but underneath it all, the true magic began in a lowly stable on a starry night. It began with humility, meekness, and tremendous love.

With Love,

1 comment:

  1. McKenna, thank you for this story! You don't know me but I happened to stumble upon your post somehow. I taught Relief Society in our ward today and I felt impressed to incorporate your story into my lesson. I could hear a great deal of sniffling going on throughout the room as it had brought many of the sisters to tears. One sweet sister even requested that I get a copy to her. Thank you for sharing your experience, your spirit, and for helping that sweet lady. You are an amazing writer and I look forward to reading more of your posts. Thanks again and I hope that you have the merriest of Christmases.