How did I end up sitting on this metal bench next to a Customer Service desk? I just wanted two $25 gift cards, but instead the cashier rang up one $50 card and one $0 card. After talking to three different employees while nearly sweating through my Christmas red sweater and with no time to rectify the mistake because I needed to pick up kids from school, I left with what I thought was the $50 card, only to discover while sitting in the carline and finally examining the receipt that it was the other one.
I dropped off my kids at home and drove back to the store. My parting instructions from management were: “If you want to change this, come back and ask for me, (insert Assistant Manager’s name here),” so that’s what I did. I didn’t want to get in that long December return/exchange line, so at first I wandered around looking for my assistant manager friend.
“Do you know ______?” I would ask vested employees, as if I were searching for a missing child. “Have you seen her?” Finally, I found one of the employees who had been a part of the original purchase, and she helped me find the correct member of management. And that’s why I’m sitting here now, waiting while she checks the store log to find which card has what. As shoppers walk past me, I wonder if they think I’ve been caught shoplifting and that’s why I’m sitting here with no bags and no buggy. That’s silly, I tell myself, why do you assume people think you’ve done something wrong?
Other than being a slight inconvenience, this is really not a big deal. It’ll be worked out and I’ll soon be on my merry way, so in the meantime I’ll sit and watch the busy afternoon foot traffic. In spite of the festive decorations and the countdown to Christmas, generally-speaking, people look tired. They look stressed. They look not-so-Christmas-Spirit-like. A mom just snapped at her young son as he wailed for something she wouldn’t buy him. There’s some tension over a bike return at the Customer Service desk. No one is yelling, but there is a cloud of disappointment lingering over the participants in the bike return dispute. Everyone in that line looks they’d rather be anywhere else doing anything else at that moment.
I’m suddenly aware of an aspect of Christmas I hadn’t considered before. We (me included) get so caught up with the buying and wrapping. We can easily become consumed with lists and costs. So what if I were the gift? Not that I don’t think we should give each other presents! I’m not suggesting we eliminate any opportunities to be generous and kind. But as I sit on this metal bench on this busy afternoon, I can choose to be the gift. Nothing material. Nothing to be bought. Nothing to be wrapped. My smile, my understanding, my attentiveness can be what this stressed-out group needs this afternoon.
When the assistant manager comes back with my loaded gift cards, I can be the gift of calmness without a trace of self-righteous anger. When I get home, I can be the gift of patience with my kids while I try to juggle helping with homework, making supper and getting kids to ball practice. Hopefully, if I keep looking for ways to be a gift to others, it will become my natural inclination, then it might become contagious. Imagine what a pile of presents we’d have if we all endeavored to be a gift!