On the day before many of us celebrate the anniversary of the greatest gift given to mankind it dawned on me that my greatest gift may have come when I failed to give one.
Five years ago my wife and I were on our way to church during a very heavy downpour, the cats and dogs kind of rain. Along the way we noticed a woman standing at a bus stop without an umbrella desperately trying to pull her coat over her head. She was on the other side of the median divided road looking quite miserable.
Just as we passed, Beth and I looked at each other and knew we were thinking the same thing. “We should U turn around and give her our umbrella.”
You see she was on the other side of the road, we had already passed her, it was going to be hard to do a U turn, we would have been soaked walking into the church, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I wish we were more reptilian and reacted on our instincts rather than our more advanced rationalization genes.
We have regretted this decision ever since. We discuss it often. It is stuck in our psyche forever and that is why it was one of the greatest gifts in my life.
Fast forward to yesterday as Beth and I were doing some last minute stocking stuffer shopping. I was in good cheer and decided to wear the Santa hat (yes Beth allows this). As we were checking out the latest advances in sink drain plugs a gentleman approached us and asked “Where did you get that hat? I have been looking all over town and can’t find one. I desperately need one for tomorrow night (Christmas Eve).” Beth replied “I don’t know, we’ve had it for so long.”
It was at that instance an image of the woman with the coat over her head in the pouring rainstorm appeared. I don’t mean in a burning bush type of way but in the way that I knew it was intentional. Then out of pure instinct and not by any conscious decision I removed the hat from my head, handed it to him, shook his hand and said “Merry Christmas.”
The look on his face was incredible as he reached out his hand and said, “My name is Steve Gray.”
I don’t know what Steve has planned for tonight. Beth and I imagined he was going to play Santa Clause for his kids or that he was dressing up for a family get together or maybe he was going caroling. It doesn’t matter as we both had received and incredible present from Steve – a smile, a handshake and a new name to remember.
You see, this was not a Joe or Beth thing – no conscious thought was put into this transaction. Somehow our instincts were programmed from that one failure five years ago to vow to never repeat it. I am sure psychologists and scientists can explain this better than I can ever comprehend.
I simply call it a gift.
Merry Christmas everyone. God bless you Steve Gray.