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Keeping the Christmas Spirit All Year Round

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Our family spent the weekend decorating for the holiday season. On Saturday, my husband set up the Christmas tree. The children and I took turns hanging ornaments from the branches. On Sunday, we decorated the outside of the house.

While wrapping a strand of lights around the fence, my husband encountered a tangle. He shook the chord loose. It flew up toward my face and slapped against my glasses, creating a deep scratch that distorted my vision.

Suddenly the holiday spirit evaporated.

I was furious.

My glasses are precious. No one touches them except me. Not even the optometrist when he checks my vision each year. I care for my glasses like some people care for their cars—making sure they are properly washed and polished with a special order microfiber cloth and stored in a hard cover case in a temperature-controlled environment.

My husband noticed the change in my appearance and offered a token of consolation. “I’ll buy you another pair.”

I swallowed the tears welling up in my eyes. I dropped the strand of lights and headed into the house to clean the lenses—hoping to scrub out the scratch. It wouldn’t budge.

I stalked outside and announced, “It won’t come out.”

My husband, standing on the roof with an armful of lights, said, “I told you I’d buy you another pair.”

I, however, wouldn’t let it go. I proceeded to rant and rave. Our front yard became a small battlefield. The neighborhood kids ran up to the fence to watch.

Then something shifted. Maybe it was the tightness around my husband’s mouth or the “nothing” mumbled from my husband’s lips when I asked what the matter was. Something softened inside of me. I was okay. My husband was okay. My children were okay. The glasses were scratched, not broken. I could still see. The situation was not as bad as I had made it out to be.

We call Christmas the season for giving. We give blankets and clothing to the poor. We purchase new toys for children who would otherwise receive no gifts. We volunteer at the homeless shelter and serve food to people who would otherwise not eat. We send cards to people we haven’t seen in awhile and exchange gifts with others.

But our failings overshadow our generosity at times. We stampede into the mall and trample over strangers to snatch the last discounted item on our shopping list. We back out of our parking space too quickly and scratch the bumper of the car behind us and drive away without leaving a note. We spend money we don’t have with credit cards we cannot afford to pay on gifts for people we do not care about.

We forget that giving refers not only to tangible things, but to intangible things as well. Compassion, forgiveness, and tolerance are as important as donating, volunteering, and buying. Moreover, intangible gifts can be given any time, extending the Christmas spirit throughout the year. Intangible gifts don’t cost anything, except maybe a bit of pride.

I gazed up at my husband, who was creating a glow-in-the-dark runway for Santa on our roof, and offered him the first gift of the season: “I’m sorry.”

My husband stopped fastening the lights against the gutters. He stared down at me with new eyes.

His jaw softened.

I smiled.

He started joking with me again. I started laughing. The neighborhood kids, bored with a happily-ever-after ending, abandoned their front-row seats to find a new adventure.

May you and your family keep the Christmas spirit alive throughout the year with the gifts that money can’t buy.

Merry Christmas!

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