With the holiday season nearing Christmas Day, my levels of stress and frustration are rising by the minute.
I have Christmas cards that still need to be mailed (yes, they're gonna be late). There are those last-minute gifts yet to purchase. Not to mention wrapping said gifts (haven't even started) before midnight on Christmas Eve. Oh, and the grocery shopping for Christmas Day brunch.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy every moment of my holiday tasks. Sometimes, though, the joy falls a little short as the task part feels more like work than play.
Last Saturday, a book signing at Hastings fell right smack in the middle of my time to complete the afore-mentioned "to-do" list. I looked forward to meeting new people, discussing my love of books with other readers, and of course selling every last copy of Moonlight Bleu...I just felt a little pressed for time.
But being in one place, for hours, forced me to sit quietly and relax. My thoughts cleared, and I got the chance to indulge one of my favorite pastimes: people watching.
As I observed others around me hunt for the perfect gift, I noticed the varying holiday emotional reactions. Some individuals seemed a little tired and stressed like myself. Others were bright-eyed and full of energy (I'm sure due to the double shot of caffeine their coffee cup held!), looking for items marked on the list they carried.
And then I saw a man and his teen-aged son, walking the aisles of the store together. Nothing about them shouted "look at me", but I noticed them anyway. The man followed along patiently as his son considered first one gift, and then another, and another. Never once did the father lose his smile, become frustrated, or choose his son's gift himself. He let his son work through his own decision-making process, standing by in case help was needed.
That's when I realized what had caught my attention.
In the middle of all the crazy Christmas expectations we place upon ourselves, it's easy to speak a little sharper than intended or lose patience and show a bite of temper. These things are a normal part of a busy life.
But this father's example of kindness reminded me of a couple of basic tenets: "Treat others as you want to be treated." "Be an example of what you teach."
I love Christmas. It's a joyous holiday that touches people all over the world. But that moment of clarity, that gift of kindness, is something I want to remember and experience all year round.