The line was nearly out the door. People stood hugging their packages ready to send them off to their friends and family, in all parts of the world, to bring them a parcel of Christmas joy and let them know they are loved. No one likes standing in line, but as I stood here in the post office noting the stockings hung up above the front counter and red Christmas bows along the wall, and hugging my own box, warm fuzzy Christmas feelings tugged at my heartstrings. There is a satisfaction and hope in seeing how each person was standing here because of someone they loved and desired to send a Christmas gift to. As the delicate lines on a snowflake extend, stretch, and branch in a beautiful network, the love of each person also creates a beautiful display as it extends to one another touching their lives. What a beautiful thing it must be the stories of family and love present here in the post office on just an ordinary day in winter!
More people entered in the post office and with them a burst of cold icy air swept across the tiled floor. I stood at the counter island in the middle of the post office preparing a gift for departure. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use one of the post office’s priority boxes or not so I brought a small brown box from home just in case along with packaging tape and scissors. I had a copy of my new book and a homemade candle to ship to a friend in Montana. As I compared the two boxes I decided to ship it in one of the post office’s. As I folded up and assembled the box I realized my candle wouldn’t fit. That’s ok, I thought. The important thing I wanted to send was my book. After securing all sides of the box tightly in tape, with the knowledge it might be sitting out in the Montana winter snow before being discovered, I went back to the line.
An older lady hands full of plush presents turned to me. “What box do you think I need? I just want to send this.” She had a plush frog and soft something resembling a reindeer’s face.
I looked over at the rack of flat boxes organized in size by the postal service. I was slightly perplexed why someone was asking for help with such a simple task. “ I don’t know, maybe…”I was just about to suggest one until she interrupted.
“—I just want something like the brown one you have there.” She pointed at the box in my arms.
“You can have this box.” I was quick to respond. “I decided not to use it. It just has some junk in it.” I went back to the counter to empty out my tape, scissors, and candle and transfer them to my pockets.
“Really?!” Her face lit up.
“Yeah. I’m not going to use it.”
She thanked me profusely especially just for an old brown box. She put her hands together as if to pray and pointed her head towards heaven. “Thank you Jesus,” she said in the most sincere way.
“Let’s see if it fits.” I said. She proceeded to explain how the item resembling a reindeer’s face was a Rudolph toilet seat cover. She had it stuffed full with other soft items. She told me how her sister had moved to Florida and she wanted to surprise her with this silly gift for Christmas. I helped her squeeze her plush toilet seat and other treasures into the cardboard box. She held the sides of the box tightly together as I taped it.
“Let’s make sure we get it taped up well,” I said as I wrapped tape around the corners. “We don’t know if it will be sitting out in the snow or not.” Then I remembered it was going to Florida.
She continued to thank me and I assured her she was certainly welcome. While assisting her I had fallen back in line, but the kind people in line just before me motioned me forward telling me that I started out in line before them.
After my business in the post office was done, and my little package was checked in for its flight to Montana, I left the post office back into the frigid weather. As I was walking back to my car I was thinking of the next errand to run. Then when I reached for my door handle I heard “Merry Christmas!” from behind me. The lady I had helped in the post office extended a large festive tin of popcorn toward me.
“Oh, no, I can’t,” I said, feeling unworthy of such a gift for such a small gesture.
“Please,” she assured me. “It’s Christmastime. You let me have your box, and you were so kind, and that just made my day. Merry Christmas!”
I thanked her and got into my car with a completely undeserved large tin of popcorn in my lap. I emptied my pocket of my scissors, tape, and candle. I looked at my candle, and thought, “I need to give this to her.”
Her car lights came on, and her car started to back up. I walked over to her car, and she rolled down her window.
“I was going to mail this candle to my friend, but it didn’t fit in the box and I want you to have it. I made it.” I reached into her window to give it to her.
She proceeded to tell me she was a school teacher of thirty years from out of town visiting Danville for the day. She told me that this time of year is difficult, especially for teachers, but how my simple act of kindness really made her day. She told me that giving to one another is really what Christmas is all about, along with celebrating the birth of Jesus. I agreed with her. “So you made this candle? You poured the wax and everything?” she asked.
“Yes,” I confirmed.
“That makes it all the more special. I will take this home, and I will say my prayers by it tonight.”
We both wished each other a Merry Christmas again, and that was that.
I sat in my car, turned up the heat, although my heart had been well warmed; and I was looking at my popcorn tin, soaking up and savoring the Christmas spirit.
What satisfaction this encounter and exchange of gifts with a lady whom was none other than a stranger at the post office had brought me! It may just be popcorn tin, and it will soon be devoured and gone, but nevertheless it was unmerited, by no means a match for an old cardboard box. This really did tug at my heartstrings and this moment truly felt like Christmas in its most organic form, for Christmas really is the receiving an undeserved gift— the gift of the Christ Child, undeserved, unmerited, but out of selfless love. There’s no good list nor bad list that extends or retracts this gift of a Savior.
An image of this lady saying her prayers by my little white candle came to mind. A sense of humility overcame me, thinking of how this simple candle I made will be used in this lady’s quiet and intimate moment with God. Perhaps it will even serve as a small impetus for her to pause and take the time to talk with God in the midst of the busy Christmas season.
With all that’s going on in our lives, in our world, and in our hearts, we must not overlook sweet, simple, beautiful, divinely orchestrated moments like this happening all around us that remind us of the beauty and love of our Heavenly Father.
As it is a prayer for myself, may it be a prayer for you, that this Christmas God uses you to touch the lives of another through unmerited love and kindness.