In defense of late shoppers
Dec 20, 2012
This week, I’ll start my Christmas shopping. For a long time I was ashamed to admit that I begin with only a few days to go, but the truth is this is my favorite part of the holidays.
No, I did not procrastinate. I know the advice about how to make Christmas shopping easier. But there are some things that don’t get better just by being easier. I’ve read all the “How to Get Organized” books, but I’ve also lived through enough tragedy to know that trying organizing one’s life is an illusion. Recovery means giving up some control. And Christmas is one area I surrender. There are some very good reasons to go to the stores now.
Those of us who begin our shopping this week get to enjoy the real spirit of Christmas. We get to watch humanity test itself and see kindness and patience and grace enacted—or honored in the breach—in toy stores and next to the stack of 30-percent off cashmere sweaters. We also know that the worst characters to run into at the mall now are the, “I was done in August” people who just learned they need one more thing and have to come out and shop with the rest of us. They are usually the ones cutting in line and sighing heavily and wanting others to share their misery.
Those of us who shop now are engaging in a holiday ritual that is much closer to the original: It’s cold out, traffic is as slow as a lane of donkeys, and we get to watch the young family with a triple stroller searching the mall for a changing area. It makes you want to drop to your knees and pray. Yes, shopping in July could make Christmas nice and tidy, but real life is anything but that. Consider the story of the Holy Family: There was no advance planning; Mary was days away from delivery when they went on a road trip, and she had to give birth in a barn. Not exactly tidy, neat or under control. The crux of that first Christmas is that sometimes in the midst of mess and confusion and fear, angels show up and miracles happen.
But in order to experience that you have to be willing to join the fray and put yourself where humans happen to be. Relationships with people are like casinos: You must be present to win.
So, this week I will be where humanity is. I’m heading out to the mall, bundled up, grinning and bracing myself for encounters with my fellow man. I’ll be trekking in from the far outer loop of the parking lot, looking for a few gifts and the real spirit of Christmas.