Chicago mom is reminded of the true meaning behind gift-giving

Normally, I don’t do malls.

And I especially don’t do them during the holiday season.

This morning, however, broke me. In an act of sheer desperation, I pulled my husband’s long sleeved, slate gray Express shirt out of his drawer, over my head and walked out of the house assuring myself that if I stretched it out I could always ask forgiveness because I’d already blown right past asking for permission to wear it.

See, nothing fits this post-pregnant body. It just won’t budge no matter what and I’ve been reluctant to budge on buying new clothes because …

1. I dislike shopping alone and having to make decisions and

2. I dislike spending money while shopping alone and having to make decisions and

3. I dislike spending money while shopping alone and having to make decisions and purchasing bigger clothes than what I’d prefer.

So, also in an act of sheer desperation after feeling badly about stretching out the hub’s shirt, I went to the mall with my 4-year-old son during the peak of the busy season of shopping, consumerism and consumption.

I promise you I’m not actually cynical – it’s just that the Christmas and holiday season is such a whiplash for a heart that really loves the gratitude and beauty that surrounds Thanksgiving. It’s not that the very essence of Christmas isn’t overflowing with love and grace and breathtaking beauty, it’s just that such a spirit isn’t usually found at stores, malls and places where busy, rushed people go to find all of the gifts on a list they perhaps didn’t want to write. And it’s left me in a little bit of a gift-giving funk.

So I’m walking through the mall with my little guy in tow, trying to keep us out of the main path so we don’t get run over. Other shoppers are doing some serious power walking.

I’m a little tired. I’m a little hurried. I’m a little “hangry” (hungry and angry combine to make the best shopping experience for a non-shopper ever, by the way).

But I’m trying really, really hard to not wear those things on my sleeve and I’m praying for God to remind me that I’m beyond fortunate to be able to go to a mall and buy clothes when I need them and that I’m beyond blessed to be doing it with the cutest little co-shopper ever.

At this point, I start feeling a little convicted about the angry part of the hangry and I try to release it through a deep exhale and a silent uttering of remorse. But it’s still kinda hanging on, kinda like the 15 pounds that just will not quit around my hips and thighs.

I’m lost in this whirlwind of thought as we’re walking when I notice my boy pulling me toward Santa.

Even though we’re on a time schedule, and I’m hangry, and we’ve already seen Santa a few times this season, I sense that it’s very important to him so we head over for a short visit.

My boy approaches the man with the beard and declares, “I have something for you!”

Santa nods, smiles and asks my boy if he wants to come tell Santa what he’d like for Christmas because Santa would be happy to bring him something special.

My boy walks closer to Santa, grinning and says, “No, Santa! I have a gift for YOU.”

Santa looks at him inquisitively as if he doesn’t really understand what this little guy of mine has said, and honestly, I’m just as lost as Santa so I wait for my youngest son to respond.

My boy, he shoves his chubby preschool hand into the depths of his little jeans pocket and pulls out his favorite candy – a Tootsie Roll. He walks closer to Santa and places it in his hand, declares a hearty but small “Merry Christmas, Santa!” and begins to walk away.

Santa reaches his hand out to give the candy back to me, but my boy says, “No! That’s a gift for Santa!”

Santa looks at my boy, joy in his eyes and tells him what a good boy he is, what a generous boy he is. My boy’s eyes shine with pure joy as a wide grin spreads across his face.

Santa offers my boy a candy cane and my boy happily accepts the gift.

As we walk away, I slow us to a halt, bend down and look into my boy’s bright blue eyes, still sparkling.

“You did a really nice thing,” I say. “You gave Santa a present when normally he is the one who is always giving presents.”

My boy keeps on grinning and I give him a hug as I whisper that I am so grateful for him in his ear.

Because I am.

I am thankful.

I am thankful he slowed me down.

I am thankful that because my clothes didn’t fit, I found myself in the mall I don’t do, with him, on this very busy morning in December.

And I’m thankful that his small act of generosity bridged the gap for my heart to merrily depart from a season of gratitude into a season of giving beautiful gifts. I am reminded of how the two are actually intricately interwoven, with threads of thanksgiving and the gifts of grace and mercy and love.

I just have to follow one string to another.

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