We headed to Hobby Lobby the Saturday evening after Thanksgiving to look for some Christmas decorations to finish up our mantle and stairs. I had no idea how much this one trip would impact me and my girls in so many ways.
We made it to the aisle with all the beautiful Nativity displays. There was a couple there looking at all of them. She was deciding which one she wanted. He was making suggestions. We were exchanging pleasant smiles as we joined them in the aisle.
Of course my sweet Jules was drawn into every one of those displays with eyes wide open in awe. With shouts of “Oh, mom! This one is so pretty!” “Look how adorable baby Jesus is!” “Mary is so beautiful!”
And as I looked for some garland I barely looked up saying, “I know, honey, but we have our Nativity.” “I know, mom, but I brought my own money. Maybe I could get one!”
I smiled at the man in the aisle as he laughed. I said, “I know. It’s pretty cute she wants one. It’s hard to say no to such a worthy thing to bring into the house. But she already has a ton of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph figures. She’s loved them since she could walk.” (True story.)
“Oh, I’m laughing because I remember those days. My youngest is 17 now. It goes fast. But you can’t blame her for wanting a reminder of Jesus in her room.”
He was right, but even with the incredible sale, they would still be expensive and we just didn’t need it. Plus I was trying to stay focused on the goal: railing and mantle decorations.
“Have a good night!” We said to each other as the couple disappeared around the corner. Julia continued showing me. This time I tried to at least see if there was a small set on sale for $5 that she could get.
The next thing I know, this sweet man comes back down our aisle, hands Julia a $20 bill and says, "Here. I want you to use this to buy yourself a nativity. Merry Christmas!"
I looked at him and was stunned. At first, I thought, “say no. We are NOT taking his money.” Then I immediately thought, “No. This time just say thank you and LET HIM do this.”
I saw Julia’s beaming smile and I said, “Wow! Thank you!” He bent down looked her in the eyes and said, “You need to always keep your eyes on that stable.”
With tears welling in my eyes, I hugged him and told him how awesome this moment was. I didn’t try to give it back. I let him give what he wanted in that moment and he continued on his way.
I turned and looked at both of my girls with me that night and we all were eyes wide open, jaws dropped at what we had just witnessed.
The first thing I said to my girls was this: “You know. When he handed you that, I first thought, ‘there’s no way we’re taking that’ and then I thought ‘yes we are’ and here’s why:
"I think too often we get in the way of other people’s kindness and we don’t let them do what they really are being called to do. He obviously wanted to bless your day, Julia, and make a difference in your life. But really it made a difference in his life, too. When someone wants to do something nice for you, let them. Especially let a stranger. It makes the world so much better.”
The best part about this story is not that a stranger handed my daughter a $20 bill to buy something. It's that he taught us so many lessons in that one act.
It made me pause before getting in the way of letting him be selfless and generous.
It made me then turn around and teach my children what I learned in that moment.
It showed my daughters that people do nice things just because they want to.
It inspired my children to want to do the same for someone and pass it on.
It made this man speak beautiful words to my daughter that I hope she will remember and think of often “You need to always keep your eyes on that stable.”
I think the world would be better if we all did exactly that.
And if we all took time to pause and graciously accept another person’s kindness. Kindness will multiply when modeled and practiced but only so long as we don’t get in it’s way and stifle it from happening.
Choose kind. But more than that, choose to ALLOW kindness to happen to you. Imagine THAT kind of world.