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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Newspaper Column for December 2009

Kettle Encounter

On a wild night with gusting winds and driving rain my husband and I ventured out to a restaurant in Kinston for a special meal to celebrate our anniversary. Only the specialness of the occasion persuaded us to leave the cozy dryness of our home. But, determined not to let the weather change our plans, out we went. After a wonderful meal, we were ready to leave when I thought of a few things I needed to pick up. By the time the waitress dropped off the check I had a note pad out and was busy writing a quick shopping list. Somewhere else to go in this wild weather. My husband never complained once. Honestly. At least not out loud.

Braving the lashing rain again, we dashed down the street to Wal-Mart, the closest store. My husband, gallant soul that he is, drove the car right up to the door so I could jump out quickly and stay as dry as possible. I scrambled out none too gracefully, but did manage to stay relatively dry.

Under the slight shelter offered by an awning over the front door, I paused, adjusted my pocketbook strap, straightened my jacket and headed for the entrance. As I walked toward the door, something bright red to my right caught my eye. A Salvation Army kettle. No doubt left there from earlier in the day when a volunteer had stood by it. My eyes traveled a little farther and, to my disbelief, tucked back in the corner, behind the kettle, sat a lady. I couldn’t believe anyone would be out here in this weather. She was an older black lady, petite and pretty, with a cap of loose gray curls. Wrapped up to her chin in a dark heavy coat she was scrunched against the wall to stay out of the rain. Our eyes made contact. She smiled at me. Not a perfunctory I’m-out-here-because-I’m-doing-my-duty-but-I’d-rather-be-somewhere-else smile, but a beautiful warm smile that lit up her face and crinkled her eyes. I couldn’t help but smile back. I was amazed at such dedication and cheerfulness on a night like this. We talked for a minute then I reached into my wallet, chagrined to find that I had only one dollar left. I’d used what little cash I carry for odds and ends (my intended purchases would be debited from my checking account). Hoping it didn’t sound like a lame excuse, I told her that I was “down to my last dollar” as far as cash. One dollar - it seemed such a paltry amount to give to someone who was giving so much.

“That’s alright honey, every bit helps,” she said.

I stuffed the single dollar into the top of the kettle, still wishing I had more to give.

I was rewarded with another glowing smile.

“God bless you real good, honey”, she said.

“And you too,” I replied.

I liked the idea of being blessed "real good" - and felt like I had already received such a blessing.

As I walked into the dry warmth of the store, it occurred to me that this lady's sweet spirit and unselfish giving, especially on such an inclement night, had demonstrated to me the real spirit of Christmas as much as any seasonal celebration I might attend.

After all, the true spirit of Christmas is about giving, not of packages, but of oneself.

This Christmas, amid the joy of family, friends, food and gifts, may we find a quiet time to reflect upon the unselfish giving of the Most Precious Gift of all.


Merry Christmas!

I'll "see" you after Christmas when the hustle and bustle has quieted down. I wish you and yours a warm and wonderful holiday season!

~ Teresa
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