Christmas Eve

Business was quiet, but a busy quiet. No mobs swarmed upon the store. Instead, customers were patient, orderly. Traffic was never overwhelming, but in the final analysis sales were solid, better than I anticipated. As with every Christmas Eve traffic fell off in the afternoon as people left to travel, to wrap, to cook–the pause to collect breath and prepare for the following morning.

I checked the mailbox at work. I forget, and a week or two might pass before I remember, “Oh, by the way, we might have mail.” I received a letter, addressed to “Allyn Gibson, Store Manager,” the printing indicating that the sender was young, a middle schooler, perhaps. I cut open the side of the envelope and pulled out the letter inside with some trepidation. I unfolded the lined notebook paper, and read the letter–

Dear Sir:

I’m writing this letter to you because I’ve been given an assignment at school to write a letter to someone in the business world who has made an impression on me with their kindness. You were the first person I thought of.

Everytime I come into your store, you are always so nice to me and take the time to answer all my questions. You never rush to get to someone else. So even though they opened a new [store] right down the street from me, I’m still going to your store.

Thank you for doing such a great job!

I read the letter again, and my eyes welled up. Even now, typing the letter, I’m feeling somewhat overcome. This letter reminded me, and on no better day than Christmas Eve, why I do what I do. Customers are what retail sales are all about. Without customers, what’s the point?

I made an impression on someone. At times in my life I’ve felt anonymous, alone. This kid, though. He knew me for me, and that made a difference. That made me feel.

My parents asked me to attend a midnight church service with them. They’re good Methodists, attending church at least twice a month. When the question was broached earlier in the week I didn’t automatically decline, but neither did I say that I would. Going would have meant something to my mother, and that held a certain weight.

I wasn’t sure how I felt. I “came out of the closet,” so to speak, as an atheist in high school, half a lifetime ago, and though I occasionally attended church afterwards to please my parents doing so meant nothing to me–a thing that I did, not a person that I was.

In the end, it was the letter that decided matters. If I meant something to this kid, then I meant something to my mother.

The service was unremarkable. Lighting of the advent candles. Singing of Christmas hymns. A long and winding sermon that could have been boiled down as “Having is not so great a thing as wanting.”

And then it was Christmas.

My mother rode in my new car. The old car died before Thanksgiving, and on the 23rd I bought a new car–a 2005 Volkswagen Beetle. It’s blue. It’s nice.

Merry Christmas, people.

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