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The {un}Cheerful Giver

The {un}Cheerful Giver

Mom, hurry up. We need to see if they have Hatchimals!

          I want the marshmallow cereal, Mommy. No - that one!

Mom - you said we only needed milk and cereal.  Come on. Come on! Come. On.

          Cookies! Can I please get these cookies. We’ve never had this kind before.

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My charming children, apples of my eye, find it difficult to resist the gimme-gimme-now’s when it comes to big box retail stores. Add to that the increased agitation that accompanies life in elementary school during the month of December, and a trip to the store feels more like Survivor, Suburban Retail Edition.

I’ve struggled this year to keep expectations in check at my house. The kids know why Christmas matters - that baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, is God’s only son and the very best gift the world has ever received. They know Christmas is a time to gather with loved ones and cherish those we hold dear. We talk about the reason for the season, but at 6 and 8, the lure of “stuff” is strong - and reinforced by pint-sized hallway banter about the latest toy craze and questions of who’s-getting-what under the tree this year.

Back to that scene at the store - and I do mean scene.

Thing 1 begged and pleaded her way from one end of the store to the other.
Thing 2 demanded a toy “right now” and proceeded to throw a fit when denied.
Someone hit someone else, who hit back.
Witty, original insults (like stupidhead) were tossed about.  

 

By the time we got to checkout, I was ready to ditch the cart (and maybe those two pesky kids following me around!) and escape to the relative freedom of the parking lot like some epic mommy jail break.

Instead, I handed the careworn cashier a pack of chocolate chip mini muffins and box of Star Wars marshmallow cereal with a wry smile, “We won’t be needing these, thank you.” In a moment of inspiration, I held back the World’s Largest Package of Generic Sandwich Cookies, asking to pay for them separately. “Please tape the receipt to the bag and leave these in the breakroom for your colleagues to share.” She was a bit perplexed. ‘Do you work here or something?’ “No, but it’s Christmas, and I’ll bet you and your friends could use a cookie on break. Thanks for keeping the store running during the busy holiday season.”

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart,
not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
- 2 Corinthians 9:7

This minuscule act of generosity didn’t change a life, and a package of generic cookies aren’t exactly cause for celebration, but all the same - I felt I’d wrapped up an obstacle-course-style run to the store with a small win on the parenting front. On the way home, I explained to the kids how challenging it can be to work in retail at Christmas time, and we’d left the cookies behind as a thank you for the hard-working employees because Christmas is not about getting - it’s about giving.

In that moment, even though we weren’t feeding the hungry (well… sort of), clothing the destitute or changing lives in any real way, we were sharing a much-desired treat with the diligent souls on the frontlines of a major retailer.

{un}Cheerful as it was, I’d like to think the Lord still smiled at our little act of giving.  

by Liz Sagaser

 

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