When I was a child out shopping with my father in the busy paced Christmas season, my small steps could never match his giant ones. For every large stride he took, I had to take three awkaward leaps to keep in step. It was like a little red bird flying next to an eagle with his massive wing span, there was a great difference in our flight, and like the eagle my father had a great wing span. When we were finished at the store, and the car was loaded up, he would always push the shopping cart all the way back into the store where it belonged. I would sit in the car waiting and wondering why he took the time to do such a good deed when he had so many more important things to do. At the time, I could not comprehend how his example of giving of himself, even in such a small way, would impact my view of the meaning of giving later in life.
Last week marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Once again as an adult, I found myself participating in the pyretic frenzy of shoppers bumping into one another trying to attain our prized merchandise that would make the perfect gift for that special someone. The chaos of that kind of interaction can steal the cheer right out of the holiday spirit. So when I was leaving the sale, and could not get to my car due to several carts left all in the way, it was at that moment, that I realilzed how in the effort to get everything right, we seem to get it all so wrong!
Every year at this time I become torn between the joy of the spirit of giving, and the drudgery of getting everything done on my Christmas to do list. Time, like lightening, flashes past me, and I just follow it in vain, like the thunder with an artless thud! However, if I stop myself in my tracks, and think all the way back when I was a child at Christmas, there are certain memories that come rushing back like a prodigal son longing to be held by the father once more. None of these thoughts hold any significance to anyone but me. There are no favorite gifts, new bikes, go go boots, or colored television sets. There are only precious moments spent with loved ones that repair my vision of what truly matters. Sometimes we get so caught up in the race reaching for the prize, that we forget the true purpose it held in the beginning. The holiday season is not about how many presents we can give, but giving in celebration of the priceless gift of hope God gave us all the way back on the first Christmas in Bethlehem. In times like these, I often have to be remimnded that the greatest gifts of all are free.
Many years have passed since I was eight years old out shopping with my father. He has long since passed away, and I have spent many Christmas seasons out shopping on my own. Sometimes I have waisted too much money, but I realize more and more as I get older that I have never been waisting my time, for no act of kindness is ever in vain. The real gifts that I was given growing up stay with me always, and they reflect out to others, like ripples in a pond. When I recall the memories of my father, it is the times we shared together, and how his integrity etched its place upon my heart that hold true. Just like our Father in Heaven has given us an eternal hope that our hearts can always hold.
This life is full of many struggles; errands that must be done, and decisions both mundane and colossal to be made. Through it all, let us not forget what truly matters most. Sometimes when I am out shopping, and my father is on my mind, as he so often is this time of year, I will finish loading my car with gifts, and take the time to push the cart all the way back to the store where it belongs. It always fills me with an inner peace, and the sweet vision of my father's smile. I know I will never be able to fill my father's shoes, but I am certain that I shall always try.
This is an essay I wrote for Christmas "all the way back" in 2007. I hope that everyone here in the blogosphere had a wonderful Christmas full of the blessings of the heart, and that the new year is one full of happiness and hope.