I looked sick. I knew I looked sick. All that was missing was a hospital gown and a nurse pushing in medication through an IV. I stuck out, but I held my back straight and kept my head up. I was shopping with my mom at a mall in the city. We were calling it a day when she needed to pop into one more store. I parked my chair near the entrance of the busy food court in a vain attempt to blend in with the crowd.
A tall blonde man approached me. I couldn’t imagine for what. He might have been in his late twenties or early thirties. He was what I would call put together, someone that looked after himself. He was good looking. The tall blonde man stopped at the arm of my chair. He said, “I just wanted to tell you that you’re beautiful.” He said it without pity. He held it out to me, like a promise.
He turned and left. I might have said thank you, but I can’t be sure that I did.
His words were an unexpected balm, reaching out and cradling my face. An answer to a prayer I hadn’t thought to utter. I treasured those moments of grace that found their way to me at odd times. When I wasn’t looking, catching me off guard, and piercing a gnawing emptiness that sat in the middle of me. By sneak attack was the best way to get to me.
I didn’t tell my mom when she returned. I kept it to myself like a child hoarding secrets, afraid the spell would be ruined with one touch, one word and it would all disappear in a puff of smoke.
It came to me later in the days and months to follow that every person needs to feel beautiful, especially when we are at our worst, our ugliest. To have someone reach beneath the surface, past the scars and see you. To recognize you are a marvel, you are something to behold. To honor your strengths before your weaknesses. To acknowledge how hard you try. I thought about kind words and actions stirring life in parched and forgotten places, how I was starving and a stranger stopped to feed me. For a few seconds my life felt magical, God’s intervention, at a time where there was little to believe in. I’ve never forgotten it; a kindness that still casts hope in my life.
I’m struggling with this season this year. There is little enthusiasm, little merriment for what’s coming. I normally love this time of year. The cozy get-togethers, dedicated shopping, and the red cups from Starbucks are a delight. This month has become a long list of things to do. And I know I’m missing the point. I’ve lost Christmas’s charm, its magic. Because this time of year is a time for magic. I see it in my kids’ eyes when we visited Santa on the weekend. I saw it last Christmas when a stranger handed me a twenty dollar bill at a toy store and said, “Merry Christmas”. I saw it another Christmas when money was scarce and friends stashed beautifully wrapped presents in our car without us knowing. I see it in strings of light wrapped around houses and candlelight on Christmas Eve. I wrote the story above to remind myself of the power of belief, grace, and kindness…that this is where the magic lies.
This will be my last post for December. I’ll return in the New Year. I wish you and yours Happy Holidays!!