Monday, December 23, 2013

Empty Boxes

I passed through the lobby of a restaurant the other day.  The tree that dominated the room was magnificent...a work of art in glittering silver with white lights.  I stopped to admire someone's creativity and eye for such details.  My personal style is more...shall we say...eclectic?  To bring the whole picture into perfect focus, there were gifts placed in perfect random under the tree.  All were in matching paper adorned with silver ribbons.  But this was a public place...not a place where the gifts would be dictated by reality...odd-sized to accommodate the varying sizes of items like books and coats and tool kits and hockey sticks etc etc etc.

The thing to realize about such displays is this...they are simply that: displays.  The boxes, most likely, are empty. 

One of my most vivid Christmas memories is of the holidays in my college years when I clerked in a nice ladies apparel shop in Beautiful Downtown Vero Beach.  I truly enjoyed it, especially since it was a busy shop with lovely merchandise and it was right in the middle of everything.  Rexall Drugstore with the soda fountain was two doors down the street on the corner.  What more could we possibly need? 

Not only was it a pleasant place to work, I worked with the dearest people.  The older ladies - who taught me so much - have since passed but my contemporary colleague remains a friend.  From time to time we reminisce about our days at the Smart Shoppe and invariably we get around to the day I wrapped up an empty box.  To put it in a nutshell, I spent a long time helping a nice man select a complete outfit for his wife, right down to the hose.  Once the sale was made, I took everything to the back room where we had a large table for gift wrapping.  Working as fast as I possibly could, I wrapped each item separately - as he had requested - so his wife would have lots of packages to open.  Finally, I stacked the lovely gifts carefully so I wouldn't mess up the bows, and gave them to him.  He was pleased, my boss smiled and all was well at the Smart Shoppe.  Until an hour later when one of my colleagues came flying around the corner of the back room looking for me.

"Sue," she hissed in a whisper so the boss wouldn't hear, "didn't you sell a pair of hose just a bit ago?"  I nodded.  "Go look on the table."  My heart sank.  O surely I had not wrapped up a box and forgot to put the hose in it.

O yes, I had.  Fortune smiled on me that day.  My friend who had discovered my neglect happened to know the man's name.  He was contacted and chuckled as he came to get another box...that actually had the gift in it. 

The point here is simply this:  so much of what we do and expect in this holiday season is just like all those empty boxes.  I don't care what Norman Rockwell tried to make us believe, perfection in any form does not exist in this world.  Our true joy - at this time of year or any other - doesn't come in a box.  It came two thousand years ago in a manger.

May your Christmas be filled with all things lovely.  For unto us a child is born!