Believe me when I say that I am as Christmased out as you are, yet here I am ending the holiday week with a Noel-themed post. Bear with me, because the message is about the other 364 days of the year.
That said, I have a reputation for being a Grinch. In fact, in the weeks leading up to this most recent Christmas holiday, I was called a Grinch repeatedly. It had something to do with my protests about excessive seasonal consumerism, surplus calorie intake from an overabundance of holiday treats, and the general color scheme of red and green. Still, the name-calling was getting to be a little much, so on the 23rd, when my daughters and I headed out to tackle a list of errands as long as my arm, my first stop was at our local Rite Aid.
“Why are we here again, Mom?” my older daughter asked as we crossed the threshold. She’d compiled our chore list and knew that a drugstore stop was not on the agenda.
“We need candy canes,” I told her, peering up and down each aisle. “The big ones, not the little ones.”
With the eyes in the back of my head, I saw the girls exchange an incredulous look.
“We need candy canes?” they asked, trotting behind me with renewed vigor that was fueled by the anticipation of sugar. “Why do we need candy canes?”
“You’ll see,” I said, as I located the Christmas candy section and proceeded to load their arms with six boxes.
“What is six times twelve?” I asked.
“Seventy-two,” they answered in unison.
“Excellent. That should do,” and I made my way to the front of the store.
In line, there were four customers in front of me and three behind. When it was finally my turn, I asked the cashier how she was doing.
She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s okay. Pretty busy, but I’m okay.”
“Kind of pacing yourself?” I asked. She nodded as she punched in the account number off my check.
When our transaction was complete, she handed me a receipt, and I handed her a candy cane from one of the boxes.
“Merry Christmas,” I said.
She looked at the candy cane in her hand, and then her face lit up with a smile. As I walked away, I heard her say to the next customer, “Look, I got a candy cane!”
“That,” I said to the girls as we walked across the parking lot to our car, “is what the candy canes are for.”
Humming a little Christmas tune, I broke open all the boxes and stuffed the pockets of my sweater with candy canes.
“You look kind of crazy, Mom,” my younger daughter informed me as her sister nodded in agreement.
“Ho Ho Ho! I don’t care,” I told them.
Everywhere we went, I handed out candy canes. I passed them out to the bank tellers, gave one to the girl who brewed my tea at the coffee shop, distributed them to the employees at the local food market where I shop, and slipped one to the owner of the art supply store after purchasing some last-minute gifts. I even stopped by the homes of several massage therapy clients.
It was interesting to see how people received their candy canes. Several people responded like the cashier at Rite Aid—as delighted as a kid on Christmas morning. Most people uttered an embarrassed little laugh, but seemed pleased nonetheless. A few people frowned slightly and then set their candy cane off to the side as they moved on to their next task, too preoccupied with their own holiday stress to receive my small Christmas gesture.
No matter how people reacted, handing out candy canes was the most fun I’d had that month. By the time I stopped by the salon where I have my massage therapy room, I was in a holly, jolly mood. After taking a staff photo—it was ugly Christmas sweater day—I handed a candy cane to each of my co-workers. The owner hugged me and said, “Awww, thank you! No one has given me a candy cane yet this Christmas.”
“You deserve a candy cane,” I told her, hugging her back.
And that, I realized, was the point of my Candy Cane Mission. Everyone deserves a candy cane. Everyone should be the recipient of an unexpected gift of kindness. In fact, that’s what Christmas was originally supposed to be all about. Isn’t about cookies or decorations or getting greeting cards in the mail on time. According to the Bible, Christmas marks the day that God gave the world His Son, and through His Son, God delivered this message: Love each other. That means everyone—those you know, those you don’t, those who are closest to you, and even those who are hardest to love and don’t love you back. My interpretation? Christ came to earth to teach us how to hand out candy canes. Not just at Christmas, but every single day.
I know it sounds crazy that after a month of griping about December 25 I would suggest that we extend the spirit of Christmas throughout the year, but that is exactly what I think we need to do. We need to launch our own daily Candy Cane Missions. Of course, our unexpected gifts of kindness don’t have to be candy canes, which are a little hard to come by in July. Any simple gesture will do: a note in a child’s lunch, a shared cup of tea, a smile, an extra bit of patience, a handful of tomatoes from your garden, or a genuine compliment to a stranger. It doesn’t matter what gift is given or even how it is received—in my opinion, the people who accepted their candy canes with the least amount of graciousness are the ones who needed them the most. What matters—what is so very important—is that your unexpected gift of kindness is given with the true meaning of Christmas. That it is given with Love.