Posted by Gina Perkins, Pre-School Mommie | Posted in Gina Perkins | Posted on 24-12-2013
To all those who are celebrating, I wish you a very Merry Christmas Eve!
I was standing in line at See’s Candies yesterday, when my ears were assaulted by petty complaints. Sure, it was busy in there – but wasn’t that a given? I mean, it was the day before Christmas Eve. In fact, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the crowd – fewer last minute shoppers than I had anticipated.
Now, I didn’t know it at the time, but DJ, my four year old had a double ear infection. (She wouldn’t make that obvious till about 30 minutes after our See’s departure. Poor kid). A nervous sales clerk wandered the store with a tray full of free samples. She kept offering chocolates to my girls. I didn’t mind. It was her job. I even heard her mention more than once that she was “just trying to keep people happy as they waited in line.” It bothered me that people were even unhappy, in need of the sugary bribing.
But, they were. Three unrelated women in line just behind me, complained in unison, as if they’d been rehearsing together for years. Each one egging the others on. “Why is this taking so long?” “They should have more registers open.” “I’m a total germaphobe, and this small space is just crawling with illness (I wasn’t sure if this was a direct hit to our family, who was doing their share of sniffling).” And my favorite, “I parked illegally, thinking I’d just be able to run in. I’ll be really upset if I get a ticket!” Um, lady, that would be your fault, not the poor cashiers who are sweating bullets and bending over backward to keep their smiles.
At one point, I turned to face them all. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do, or say. In fact, I think maybe I just intended to flash them my “mom-look.” That one that reads, “stop it, already.” But, as I was turning to face them, a thought came across my mind – I’d just step aside and let all three ladies go in front of me. And then a funny thing happened, as I faced them, two looked away, and the one directly behind me said, “well, it’s the holidays, it’s going to be crowded anywhere.”
Yes. Yes, it’s the holidays. And so far, I hadn’t overheard even one “Merry Christmas!”
In that moment, something occurred to me. We all know that complaining is ugly. We all know that we’re supposed to treat others with more compassion. We all know that the holidays, of all times, are a time for giving – patience, kindness, politeness, forgiveness, and selflessness. Why then, don’t we practice those things? Why do we choose to complain instead?
I think it’s because we’re all in such a big hurry. We’re always on the clock with our lives timed out down to the minute. We have this place to be, and that. We’re late for work. Our meeting ran over. Dinner is served at 6:00. Bath time is at 6:45. Bed time is at 7:30. We have a conference call at 7:45. And that book we’ve been meaning to finish. And lunches to pack. And a partner to connect with. And, and, and.
And, we’re never unplugged. Never disconnected. Rarely spontaneous. We’re married to our iPhones, which afford us a certain type of instant gratification. We don’t have time to look up and smile at a stranger, because we’re too busy looking down – treating friendships like business affairs, by texting our way through the relationship. We’ve lost the art of communication. The urgency for the real stuff that human interaction is all about. We don’t know how to connect intimately anymore. And, we’re so mad at anyone who gets in the way of our agenda. How many times a day do our kids hear, “Hurry up!” come barreling out of our mouths?
What if our agenda was simply to slow down? What if our agenda was to be present? What if we re-prioritized? What would happen if we decided not to park illegally, and instead choose the spot at the far end of the lot? Gosh, maybe we could use those extra 72 seconds of walking to take some deep breaths, to notice the poppies growing out of the cement, to hear the Christmas music from a neighboring storefront, to help a struggling mother load groceries into her trunk? What if we stopped breaking the rules in an effort to save time – and instead, we savored our time?
I didn’t let those ladies cut in front of me in line. That gesture was fleeting once I realized that they realized they had been caught. Ha! I was sad for DJ, though, that her excitement in sharing how we were going to bake a cake to celebrate Jesus’ birthday (our Christmas Eve tradition) wasn’t met with equal enthusiasm. No one cared to take the time from tapping their feet with irritation to hear her joy. If for no one else, can’t we slow down for the children? Our children.
Hours later, I found myself in the pharmacy waiting for an antibiotic to be filled for DJ. There was an older woman also waiting. She was really sweet to DJ, offering her Kleenex, and asking her to demo how the hand sanitizer dispenser worked (since DJ had mastered it, and was basically building snowmen out of foam). This woman was entertained by DJ’s vast vocabulary and animated storytelling. She told me that she used to be a kindergarten teacher. I was impressed by her interest and engagement with DJ, and felt a twinge of relief that not everyone was in a hurry. And then, out of nowhere, she abruptly stood up from her chair and said, “You know, I have groceries in the car. It’s sure a good thing I didn’t buy ice cream. What on earth is taking so long?!?!” I just had to laugh.
Slow down, people. If we can all agree to doing this, then we just might be able to save Christmas.