I went looking for the Spirit of the Season this past weekend.
Probably wasn’t too smart to start out on a Saturday afternoon the weekend before Christmas. In the rain. At a shopping center in Bowie. But for some inexplicable reason — perhaps competitive envy of my neighbor’s newly lavish holiday display — I had a sudden urge to get some new decorations for my house.
As I cruised the jammed parking lots and wandered the cacophonous aisles of the TargetBestBuyMichaels WalmartBorders axis of spending, I found the Spirit of the Season lurking in surprising places — and Spirit Stiflers waging an all-out war against peace on earth.
1. Spirit of the Season: Smiling at all the harried sales clerks and getting smiles back — it’s quite amazing how a few kind words can soften the frenzied looks.
2. Spirit Stifler: Posse Shopping! You know the drill: a group of five friends goes into the store at the height of rush hour (3 pm Saturday before Christmas), one immediately takes up the guard post in a checkout line while the others go shopping…. but of course, the 50 people in line behind the place holder don’t know this until the other four girlfriends show up with carts piled high to butt in line (I saw it with my own eyes!!).
4. Spirit Stifler: Letting toddlers operate the self-serve checkout scanner. (A repeat from previous years, it’s still happening!!) Please, folks, the weekend before Christmas is not the time to teach your kids how to use the checkout computers!!
5. Spirit of the Season: Graciously and without waving any special fingers let that person who cut you off in the parking lot have that parking space near the store. The walk from the back end of the lot can do you some good (and help control that blood pressure!)…
6. Spirit Stifler: Regifting things you really hate just because you think you need to give something to another person. Ugh! That stuff you hate? Give it to Goodwill. The gift recipient? Probably will really appreciate a card, a call, a kind word — let’s face it, who needs more stuff?
7. Spirit of the Season: Make a monetary gift to a charity, or two, or three. Make that gift in the name of someone else. This year, the charities need our support more than ever. Visit www.networkforgood.org to learn more… and don’t forget to make a gift to Trinity!
8. Spirit Stifler: Giving in to the evil temptation to stick a pin into those outrageous blow-up lawn ornaments (Santa in a snowglobe, oversized reindeer, etc…). Humor your neighbors, even those with questionable taste, and enjoy the efforts of all those who brighten the winter night with holiday displays.
9. Spirit of the Season: Celebrating all traditions at this time of year. Surely, in the best of the Christian tradition we should not begrudge saying, “Happy Holidays!” to our friends of other faith traditions even as we say, “Merry Christmas!” to each other. Waging culture wars seems like an odd way to observe the season of peace, hope and joy.
10. Spirit of the Season: reach out to someone who’s not doing too well right now. This is a hard season for those who have lost family members, or who have financial worries, or who are coping with illness. A small kindness can make a great difference — and it’s so much better than spending time and energy in stores!
And, of course, don’t forget to sing those great old Christmas carols, take in Midnight Mass, spend some time reflecting on the true Spirit of the Season.
Tomorrow: Christmas reflection.