To the woman who stopped her car right in front of me in the middle of the road and caused me to slam on my brakes: thank you.
No, really. I mean that.
A few years ago in early December, as all our thoughts were beginning to turn towards Christmas, I was driving to work in a pouring, wintery rain. The cold was the sort that seeps through your clothes in the time it takes to warm up the car. I’d managed to stay dry and the heat was blowing in my car, but I’m not a morning person and the morning commute can be a drag so I wasn’t exactly counting my blessings. I was barely awake, thinking about the first cup of coffee I missed but desperately needed, and watched the snarled traffic at the intersection ahead that I always dread merging into. That’s when the brake lights on the car in front of me lit up, right there in the middle of the road, with no explanation.
As I began to mumble to myself about how some people don’t have any respect and endanger everyone else, she rolled down the window on the passenger side. I saw her lean over and reach through and, outside the window, her hand held out an umbrella. She said something I couldn’t hear and a man hopped a puddle from the sidewalk and took the umbrella with a quick look of gratitude. He opened it up and went back to walking. Even though my poor attitude made it seem like a major inconvenience, the whole episode lasted maybe five seconds.
I hadn’t even noticed the man walking without an umbrella, but he’d been there the whole time, walking in the freezing rain on his way to the bus stop.
I learned a lesson that day: to a generous heart, every moment can be an occasion for a gift. It can be Christmas all-year round.
Today as we celebrate, I pause and think about what gifts I can give to others. None of us has to be limited to what’s wrapped under the tree; we can give a moment of our time, a small act of kindness, or simply take the time to notice someone and compliment them. The woman who gave away her umbrella to a complete stranger not only gave him a gift that day, she gave me one by teaching me a Christmas lesson. I continued my commute that morning with a lighter heart, reminded that when people are generous, every moment in life can be full of joy.