My friend Liz has been haunted for a year by the way she reacted to her husband’s random act of kindness last Christmas Eve. I’ll let her tell you about it:
“I love the holidays. I look forward to them every year. But inevitably, I am always amazed at the amount of stress I feel during this ‘joyous’ season. So much so, that I become like a Christmas robot. If I stop, I might forget something, or even worse, run out of time.
“So, like most, I constantly shop, hide gifts, wrap gifts, plan meals, make crafts, try to keep up with the advent calendar, shop more, etc. Usually by Christmas Eve I’m so exhausted that I’m going through the motions and hoping for the best.
“Last year, after finishing some last-minute shopping, dressing my family in our ‘holiday best,’ and preparing food for Christmas Eve dinner, it was time for church.
“Knowing I would soon be singing ‘Silent Night’ in a candlelit sanctuary truly calmed me, although not enough. Still, in the back of mind I knew that I had kids to put to sleep, gifts to wrap, breakfast items to prepare and many other Santa’s helper duties to complete before dawn.
“Midway through the service, a man joined. He wore a hooded sweatshirt and carried a large backpack. It seemed as though this was his home, at least for the duration of the service.
“After the service, I smiled at him and hoped he was able to get some refreshments before he went on his way. I noticed my husband talking to him but didn’t think much of it. After all, my husband talks to everyone.
“A few minutes later, my husband introduced me to the man and informed me that he was going to stay in our guest lodge that night. For some reason, my first emotion was anger. How could my husband put me on the spot like this?
“My next emotion was fear. What if he caused harm to my children? What if he stole from us? I also felt inconvenienced. Would I have to share my family holiday with this stranger? At what point would he leave? And where would we take him?
“In the heat of the moment, I pulled my husband to the side and tried to calmly and discreetly express my concerns through gritted teeth. However, my husband was determined to give this man a place to sleep on Christmas Eve.
“I begrudgingly got into the car with my husband, children and our new guest. During the long ride to our country home, I went through the list of things that I was going to say to my husband when we were alone.
“Meanwhile, he and this man quoted Scripture, spoke of Jesus and maybe felt the true meaning of Christmas (I wouldn’t have known because I had abandoned the true meaning of Christmas weeks ago).
“Once we were home and our guest was settled into our lodge, I distracted myself with Christmas preparations. Soon, I heard my in-laws pull into the driveway. They came to take our guest to a hotel. A combination of guilt and relief consumed me. Why didn’t I think of that?
“The next day, Christmas went on as usual. My kids were unfazed by the previous night’s events and were overjoyed with the many presents Santa brought. A mixture of emotions was still swirling inside which left me feeling anxious and sad. I smiled and then cried when no one was looking.
“It has taken me almost a year to realize so many lessons from that night. If I don’t stop, I might forget to see things like my husband does. He views the world with purity, kindness and light.
“I might forget that Jesus shows himself in many forms. He’s not concerned about whether our shopping is done, gifts are wrapped or if the advent calendar is on the third or 22nd day. He’s concerned about how we react in moments of need. To him, it’s not about the kind of car we drive, but rather about who we give a ride to.
“If he ever shows himself to me again, I hope to act with more kindness. Luckily, I’ve got a great role model in my husband, who, in spite of my awful Christmas hospitality, still sees good in me every day.”
Liz has been given the ability to see a difficult situation from a new perspective. It’s an incredible gift that is worth taking an entire year to unwrap.
I hope you receive gifts that are equally as valuable this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.