School ended later than usual this year. The late hour forced the entire Rambler family into last-minute shopping mode, which did nothing to heal the nervous twitch over my left eye.
Somehow I ended up at Walmart, people watching while waiting two hours for my one-hour photo pickup.
I have never seen so many Santa hats being worn by women who mistake leggings for pants. So many beards that could be mistaken for living things. So many deliberately hideous Christmas sweaters. So. Many. Pajamas.
Normally I’ve found that shopping at Walmart is a pleasant experience. I walk in, I find the aisle where my desired purchase is located, then I proceed to one of the two open checkout lines and buy said item. Christmas, however, seems to bring out the crazies. The normal amount of wailing children is multiplied by ten (and as a result the number of children I want to have decreases to -10). The amount of yelling adults increases by twenty, which really makes me not want to be an adult anymore. And the happiest looking person in the place was probably me and the guy out front manning the Salvation Army bucket.
Suddenly I realized why shopping at the last minute is a really, really bad idea. Especially someone with stress-related health issues. Like me.
I tried to turn myself into an island of calm in a sea of calamity. I smiled. A lot. At people. I made eye contact, which was probably dangerous business. I whistled. I tried to be as imperturbable as possible, since everyone around me seemed very likely to be easily perturbed.
I noticed I got friendlier service when I was friendlier. I noticed I was happier and less stressed out when I made an effort to not be angered. It took an effort. It took a huge effort, and a lot of deep breaths. But I made it through the day without misrepresenting the One who started Christmas.
That’s the greatest irony of last-minute shopping. One, last-minute shopping doesn’t always result in the most thoughtful gifts. God had the advent of Christ planned before that plan was even necessary. Two, people get angry when they can’t get what they want when they want it. Christ was born into poverty, and had to wait about thirty years before the climax of His ministry arrived. He has to wait even longer for people to decide they need redemption. Three, we—and here I mean Christians—lose our tempers and our testimonies in the name of…Christmas. The irony is too much for me to handle.
I kept my cool this time. I don’t always. In fact, I rarely do. But around Christmas, I have to smile. I smile because I can’t help it. I smile because I’d rather say “Merry Christmas” than shout at someone for being in my way.
Now, if I can just keep that mentality all year long.