Oh, I do so hate going to the mall just before Christmas. OK, I hate the crowds. I hate the parking lots. I can get irritated. But I do love to find the perfect present for people. And try as I might to find the perfect presents all year long (yes, if I find the perfect Christmas present in July, I will get it then and keep it, and then hope that I’ve remembered I’ve got it already), generally I end up in mid-to-late December out shopping with the crowds.
So there I was today at Gigantic Mall. For those of you who know the D.C. metro area, Gigantic Mall was Tyson’s Corner Center, but it hardly matters. I mean, it could be Gigantic Mall anywhere, couldn’t it? It could have been Paramus, NJ, or Crossgates in Albany, NY, or the big, huge, ugly mall on Rt. 59 in West Nyack, NY, or some Gigantic Mall I’ve never heard of in the Chicago suburbs. It’s a Gigantic Mall thing. The people who are a little too frantic, looking for parking, and getting annoyed at the people who are directing traffic (for the customers’ safety and benefit, but never mind that, apparently). People getting a tad over-heated in heavy coats and heavier packages in crowded stores. Big displays of so-called must-haves that really aren’t all that must-be-owned, since we’ve done without them all this time without ill effect.
Now, I should probably tell you that my husband, Don, and I, had different approaches to gift-giving. Don was happy to ask the kids what they’d like, or to give them gift cards, especially generic gift cards. I’ve always had a more philosophical approach. I like to find the perfect gift. Gift cards if I must (and to be fair, sometimes a gift card is the perfect gift). I’d prefer to give a gift that isn’t asked for. I’d like to figure it out (although I don’t mind a little help from spies).
Sometimes I know exactly what I’m going to give to someone. I know what I want to give, and then I go on a search for it. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it turns out to be much harder than I could possibly imagine.
Sometimes I wander around the shops and look for inspiration. And then it comes! Hallelujah! Why yes, I would like this particular piece of jewelry/sweater/book/stuffed animal/thingme. And yes, I’ll gladly wait on this very long line to pay for it. Gift wrapping? Oh, yes, please, since it’s for charity and all. Or else I’ll wrap it at home. At around midnight on Christmas Eve. But that’s another blog, I think.
And of course, there are the Salvation Army bell-ringers. They’re out there, in all sorts of weather. When I was little, I remember Volunteers of America Santas on nearly every street corner. And the Salvation Army bell ringers. We always put change in the pots.
I was struck today by how pleasant people were. I don’t mean the customers, although there were some friendly customers to be sure. I mean, I was struck by how friendly the employees were. I mean, these are the folks who have to face the onslaught of all these customers. All the customer complaints and demands. Yet, everyone I talked to today had a smile. Even when I didn’t (I’d had a migraine when I stopped in at the genius bar, and I couldn’t really muster a smile then).
The people in the tea store (no worries, I’m fairly certain my mother doesn’t read my blog, so I think I’m safe from spoilers here) were very friendly and helpful, and are even shipping my mother’s present. And Mom, if you are reading this, the package from the tea store is from me.
The people in all the other stores (my children do read my blog) were also helpful and friendly. So many ways to package coal! (And that’s all you’re getting out of me before Christmas!)
So while the rage-rousers of the airwaves try to convince us that there’s a war on Christmas, I have to say that I just don’t see it. Sure, I’ve seen people who are far too busy to pay attention to their own lives. I think they’re probably like that all the time. But I’ve also seen a lot of genuinely friendly people. And even the folks who are rushing around and seem to think that it’s all about getting everything in on time and checking things off a list aren’t declaring war. They’re just missing it. Too bad.
On my way out of the mall, I saw someone give hot chocolate to the Salvation Army bell-ringer and the two guys directing traffic. They were already being pleasant to everyone, but they all smiled bigger and said “thank you” to her. It didn’t take that much. So thank you to all the folks who are working late hours at the malls. Thank you to all the people who are directing traffic and making it safer. Thank you for smiling.
Maybe we should be doing that more. Smiling at people. Giving them hot chocolate. Remembering that none of us really like the crowds and the traffic. It’s still Advent, a time of waiting. Of patience. The patience part is hard, but perhaps if we practice it a little bit more while we’re waiting, maybe we’ll all be a bit more pleasant with each other and a bit happier, too. I don’t know for sure, but it certainly won’t hurt.
That’s my mite. It’s all I’ve got.
- Weather, change in shopping habits contributing to Salvation Army Kettle shortfall (fox43.com)
- Bell-ringer: I was punched for saying ‘happy holidays’ (azfamily.com)