Sad fact – people have no inclination to open presents I’ve wrapped. This is because, instead of tantalising hints at treasure within, they give off an aura of utter tat, fallen from the back of a lorry or bought at a White Elephant stall. I tell myself it’s because I’m a “rip it off” person. My husband, on the other hand, is brilliant. Sizing the wrapping to be cut with a practised eye, he can scissor a line through paper straight as an arrow (without cutting the tablecloth) and coax the lumpiest of shapes into perfect hospital corners. He’s not much good at ribbons and bows. If there are any to be applied (and I can’t promise there will be), I’m quite good at that. But as for the basics, forget it. We have refined the process to factory-like precision. He wraps. I write eccentric labels and do pretty bits (stick on bows) and everyone is happy.
This morning we did the Christmas Food Shop. Observing others, it fascinates me how different we are. Some trolleys were full of alcohol and little else, some with meat. There was one lady with a trolley crammed with just potatoes. I wanted to say, “A-scuse me! Are you having a potato printing party? ” But it seemed a bit nosy to say the least, so I contented myself with imagining a baked potato jamboree at hers, with Santa hats. There was a shaky old lady trying to read labels on jars of pickled onions and a teenager trying to help. “Sulphur dioxide. Are you alright with that? What about onions? You alright with them?” It made her laugh as she thanked him for his trouble.
After we’d stowed our bags in the car, there was an incident. From the queue waiting for spaces, a Mercedes suddenly swerved around the car at the front and roared straight into a just-vacated space. The young lady, whose space it should have been, started tooting furiously. She got out, strode over to the three young men getting out of the car, and shouted, “Oi! You were behind me!”
“No we weren’t!” replied the driver, “We were in FRONT of you. Anyway we’d been waiting f****** ages!”
The young lady, understandably, wasn’t happy. She called them a name, loudly. I won’t repeat it but it begins with a W. And has seven letters (in the plural). The young men strode off, laughing. I do not like this word but you could see her point of view.
What happened next was interesting. Four or five people, including my husband, indicated that they were about to go and she could have their space, even pulling out before they’d taken the trolley back etc. so she could park. She immediately reverted to the pleasant, gentle looking person she had previously seemed, and thanked us all profusely. We were outraged, but nobody wanted to pick a fight with three, er, unpleasant youths. But this was something we could do.
Christmas brings out the best and worst in us – my physical laziness (because that’s what it is. I spend ages thinking of eccentric greetings for labels), the kindness of strangers, impatience, selfishness, solidarity towards the wronged. But random kindness give us hope. It reminds me of the story told on Sunday…
Four candles were burning on the advent wreath. The room was still and ever so quietly they began to talk to each other. The first candle sighed, “My name is Peace. But people don’t recognise my value and won’t allow me into their lives.” Gradually the candle’s light got smaller and weaker until finally it went out.
The second candle trembled in a draught from the window. “My name is Faith,” she whispered, “But I feel as though I’m not needed. People don’t believe anything any more unless they can touch it and hold it in their hands.” And slowly the candle flickered and died.
The third candle whispered, “My name is Love. I no longer have the strength to keep burning. The world has become so selfish and uncaring. People only think about what’s best for them.” And with a sputter and a sigh, its light went out
At that moment, a child came into the room. He stopped and looked at the candles, puzzled. “You should be burning!” he cried, “You should be alight. We need you!”
Then the fourth candle spoke. “Do not be afraid,” she said, “As long as I’m on fire, I will always give the other candles light and life. My name is Hope.”
A big thank you if you have clicked on the link and read a blog post this year.
Wishing you a peaceful Christmas and a hopeful 2016…