It’s approaching 2:00 PM on Christmas Eve. The fist-size chunk of fudge I just wolfed down and the Regular Coke next to my mouse pad are proof-positive I have entered that phase of the holiday period where calories just don’t add up.
By and large I feel generally ready for the holiday. Every year we decide we’re going to treat ourselves to something special, and then maybe Santa might drop off a thing or two. This year we’re getting a couple of easy chairs, which frees me up for my annual visit(s) to see our friend Lisa at The Proper Setting. I find her “One Kiss per Gift” marketing scheme to be pretty effective tool in securing (my) repeat business. (It’s also patriotic as she sells stuff made in the USA).
With my shopping completed, I can now focus on the spiritual nature of the holiday season. I decided this year I was going to do “26 Random Acts of Kindness”. While I understand the spiritually superior path is to do these acts with anonymity and without expectation, I, of course, approach it with my own flavor. Needless to say, I had mixed results.
On the first day, in the Lower Level Parking below a high-rise building in downtown Philadelphia, I sought out the attendant, put cash in her hand and simply said, “Merry Christmas!”.
She looked at the money, smiled, and with tears welling in her eyes, she said “Thank you!”
“That was sweet!” I said to myself. “This is going to be awesome!”
That evening I stopped by the grocery store for my favorite bachelor meal; sushi and a Whoopie Pie. After I had checked out, I handed the cashier the same currency I had given the parking lot attendant. She looked at it, then said, “I can’t. Our corporate policy doesn’t allow us to take tips.”
I stared at her with whatever look I have on my face when I’m thinking, “WTF? Really?”
“Merry Christmas” I said as I walked away, my chopsticks poking a hole in the plastic shopping bag.
The next morning, I stopped by a local coffee-house. Same thing; I ordered my coffee, paid for it, then presented the cashier with same cash amount. He didn’t even look at it! He said “Thanks” then stuffed it into the “Tips” jar in front of the cash register.
I thought to myself, “You’re sharing my love with other people?”
Clearly, this spiritual practice thing is going to be a bit more challenging than I thought. Sharing my frustrations about these un-cooperating strangers with friends and family was not met with the compassion I had hoped for.
My son Chris said, “Yeah, I bet it really sucks when you don’t get credit for doing anonymous deeds.”
My friend Brian said, “I’m starting to build a resentment that I’m not one of your 26!”
As I often do, I reflexively looked to Leigh for some guidance on spiritual matters. I then recalled her own ‘random act’ yesterday morning that spoke volumes: Backing out of the garage, she inadvertently slammed into the bumper of our daughter-in-law Lindsey’s BMW. The crushed bumper and broken tail light told the tale. Although Leigh felt terrible, the upside is this will result in a random act of kindness for some BMW body repair technician.
“Merry Christmas, Buddy.”
After sleeping on it, I woke up this morning determined to finish out my ‘26’ with more anonymity (but less costly than a Beamer bumper). I stuffed envelopes with cash, and began tucking them under miscellaneous windshield wipers. I think I did a pretty good job at not being seen, although, there was one close call in front of the New Cumberland post office. As I walked out of the Proper Setting (yes, another gift, another kiss; I call it patriotic retail therapy!), I saw a gentleman getting out of his pick-up truck. I thought I had it timed well, but he walked more slowly than I had anticipated. I cleverly stopped on the sidewalk to pretend to tie my shoe, even though I was wearing a pair of slip-on Merrill’s. I can be pretty clever that way. As he passed, I stood up and did the deed.
My last stop was the Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru. My plan was to order coffee and a couple donuts, then slip the window attendant cash, asking her to pay for the next person in line. So thrilled with myself with this hardly original approach, I took the coffee, gave her the extra cash and request, then left the drive-thru. It wasn’t until I looked in the rear view mirror as I was leaving the parking lot that I realized that not only I had forgotten the donuts, but there was no vehicle in line behind me.
Maybe I’m just not cut out for engineering spiritual karma.
This, however, does remind me of my USNA classmate, Jon Wall. During the eulogy at his funeral several years ago, he was said to be fond of the quote, “Every interaction is an opportunity for intimacy, or an opportunity for alienation.”
Cheers, Jon. I think I’ll just keep that in mind for the rest of my holiday season; and perhaps beyond.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.