A touch of grace to others will help spread holiday goodwill

This article was originally published in North County News.

“It’s my fault,” I confessed to my son. “I’ll take the gift inside so if there are any harsh words, they will land on me.”

I scooped up the package, plopped it in my lap and wheeled out of the van onto the church sidewalk. We had signed up for an Angel Tree gift and just learned I had misread the due date. A gentle, but firm, phone message alerted me that my gift was missing, late and, in fact, holding up the delivery process.

The sternness in the gentleman’s voice gave me pause, reminding me of my father’s tone when I’d erred. Mortified at my oversight, I prepared for the worse.

I had the best of intentions, taking down all the detailed instructions and dutifully purchasing the specified gift for the correct gender and age of the child. My son picked the Angel tag, approved our choice of the gift and even reminded me the Sunday before the due date to make sure we delivered it promptly.

But I misread the date. We were late and in trouble.

Did I over-commit again? Was it a mistake to accept that responsibility? Perhaps I need to rethink that decision for next year. My mind raced with the consequences and was already planning to avoid such stress in the future. That stern voice kept haunting my thoughts.

So, I straightened my Christmas sweater, plumped my hair to reveal my snowflake earrings and sported the merriest smile I could muster as I approached the doorway. After all, how angry could they be with such a festive lady in a wheelchair?

Not one, but two men greeted me. “Great,” I thought. “Now, I’ve got a committee to charm.” Amazingly, they both opened the doors, sporting their own smiles. Before I could begin my apologies, they introduced themselves and began to thank me for bringing the gift.

One gentleman proceeded to tell me a story about a grandmother raising six grandchildren alone who had already received gifts.

“Your gift is making a difference,” he said with a warm smile.

My doubts faded away and I focused on the intent of my gift. We were helping a family in need. Perhaps I should sign up for more Angel gifts next year. And mark the date in red on my calendar.

I grinned back at him, grateful for his kindness. My mind’s pace slowed to a comfortable idle as I realized my gift was still worthy. These gentlemen could have justifiably been upset with me, yet they were gracious.

“Gracious” can be hard to find during the holiday season. Schedules jam, plans change and unexpected events thwart the most organized souls. Plan B’s often rule where we find ourselves constantly adjusting to the unforeseen. In the midst of all the celebratory chaos, we can lose our graciousness.

We can be tempted to quickly offer criticism, even if well-deserved, when stress seeps into our mindset. However, we may be best served to remember that graciousness offers unmerited kindness.

Author Anne Lamott sums it up well. “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace,” she writes, “only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

A touch of grace can move us through our errors, our guilt and our doubts and restore our energy and sense of purpose.

A kind word, merited or not, can soften harshness, relieve stress and even restore our worthiness.

May your New Year be filled with grace and kindness, both given and received.