Back in the 1970’s I worked in a famous gentleman’s outfitter’s in the High Street (I won’t name it because someone is bound to start singing and I don’t want you to do that) Back in the day it was all a woman could do to get her husband to go shopping for clothes once a year. This particular Christmas a young family came in to buy dad some clothes for the festive season before going on to toy shops and goodness knows what altogether.
I don’t recall whether they bought anything but I do remember a desperate wife and mother come rushing back into the shop, followed by her vexed husband and family asking if we had found some money she had dropped..
This was a time when credit cards were not common-place and debit cards hadn’t been invented. It was not uncommon for people to come into town with their money in cash and this is what they had done; a couple of week’s pay, bonuses, holiday money, all in a bundle and now lost at the very beginning of their adventure in the Christmas rush.
Well, we searched high and low but never found that cash and they went on retracing their steps and hoping above hope that some kind soul had found it and “handed it in” somewhere. During the rest of the day we found ourselves periodically going back to the search, looking under coat racks, searching behind counters, even looking in those places out of bounds to customers but nothing turned up.
The look of desperation on her face wrung our hearts that day, moved us to action, and I simply hope they found their money. I learned three lessons from that encounter, the first about life in general, the second about people and the third about me.
About life I learned that some things happen about which we can do nothing no matter how much we might want to do something. The lesson is that we should do what we can and not what we can’t. So often we get in our own way in a futile effort to change the past when the future is ready to meet us with fresh opportunities for growth and redemption.
About people I have learned that everyone, no matter their status in life, can be a moment away from calamity and disaster. An unkind word spoken in haste can be as devastating as a betrayal, job loss is often unexpected and frightening, the loss of all your Christmas money a week before the big day is certainly disastrous when it is all you have. The loss of a loved one…
A sudden turn in fortune can be devastating and people are much more vulnerable than a brave face and a confident step would have you think. We should stop assuming everyone else is alright and show a kindness, be a friend.
Every year when Christmas comes around I think of that family and their unfortunate mother. I learned about myself that I care and think about these things; that’s who I am. Life is too short to go around trying to be someone else. Find out who you are and be that person because that’s who you were made to be.
Have a Happy Christmas and, if you are into that sort of thing, resolve in 2013 to do what you can, not what you can’t, to remember that other people are vulnerable too, and to find and be who you are. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, make some new friends along the way and maybe even make a difference.