SideLines: It's the thought that counts

I like Halloween - maybe not as much as the colleague who takes the day off to watch horror movies all day - but I absolutely love the Christmas season.

I know the holidays can be difficult for some, and my heart genuinely goes out to them. Personally, though, I find everything about the season amazing. It starts with that first snowfall, which always fills me with a kind of a little-boy wonder. Watching those first few flakes, so pure and innocent, covering the ugly brown ground is like a renewal of hope.

I love driving around at night, seeing houses decorated with Christmas lights, especially a lonesome farmhouse out in the country, where you least expect to see anything.

I love that sense of goodwill in the air, especially in the chill of early evening. I love Christmas music, when they sing the songs right and don’t try to jazz them up too much, TV Christmas specials and that feeling of community when the church choir begins “Joy to the World” at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

And, even though it may be socially incorrect, I love going into overheated stores, engulfed by brillant lighted holiday displays, Christmas music and shelves bulging with possibilities. Whenever I hear someone say they don’t know what to get someone, they simply aren’t looking. I don’t know how anyone can go through a shopping mall and not see something for someone. I’m not a big shopper, but I can find something for everyone, even those I may not be that crazy about or haven’t seen in a long time. Something just comes out in me.

About 30 years ago, it was a tough time for a lot of people I knew. Most of us were out of work and didn’t have any money. Even though my best friend and I agreed not to exchange gifts, I still got him something, just a poster of his favorite rock group. Not wanting to embarrass him for not getting me anything, I debated whether I should give it to him. I did, at the last moment.

To my surprise, he clutched the poster to his chest and thanked me, over and over. I didn’t find out until later that was the only gift he got that year.

A few years ago, when we were all doing much better, my sister and I decided to get a new TV for someone we knew. We waited until Christmas Eve to get it.

You know those little stickers warning that objects in your rearview mirror may be closer than they appear? There should be similar stickers warning that “items may be larger at home than in the store.”

In checking out prices and brands, we forgot to measure the box, which was about 3 inches wider than our back seat or trunk. As we debated what to do, a guy in a pickup truck offered to drive it home for us. We just had to lead the way.

It wasn’t until we were driving off that I wondered if that was the last time we’d ever see that TV. As it turned out, not only did he deliver on his promise, he helped carry the box into the house, then refused any payment.

“It’s Christmas,” he told me. To this day, I regret not getting his name.

If there’s any lesson here, I guess, is that it doesn’t matter what you get someone - unless it’s your wife or teenage kids, maybe. Chances are you’ll get repaid in a way you weren’t expecting.

’Tis the season.

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