True Gifts

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

It was one of those hectic days—getting the car filled up with gas because it was, at the time, running on fumes the last time I pulled into your driveway. Then it was stopping at Walgreens to get some much-needed items, then hitting the grocery store to buy dinner provisions and, lastly, to purchase last-minute stuff (in this case, at the Hobby Lobby) for a SaddleBrooke social event with which I happened to be intimately involved during the following week.

Dead tired, I slugged my way through the Hobby Lobby, picking up the items I needed along the way. Then I saw her.

From my vantage point, it looked like she only had one arm. Gosh, I thought, how difficult that must be. I continued to shop, then wheeled my cart around the corner and, from a distance, saw that the woman had no arms at all! And, yet, her shopping cart was full of items. She was, in fact, using her toes to pick up items from the shelves and placing them into her shopping cart.

I gathered myself together and walked up to her. “I so admire you,” I said. She seemed a bit put off by my comment, but in seeing her beautiful hair color and lovely cut, I said, “Your hair is just wonderful and beautiful—great cut and color!” “Thank you, I do it myself,” she said. I smiled (a bit weakly, I must admit) and went on my way, feeling as though my recent bout with a nagging cough (post-COVID) was like a drip in the bucket. But there was more that day …

As I was checking out of the store, I saw that one of the women who was working at one of the registers had a huge gouge in her upper breast area, under her smock, which had fallen away from her shoulder. Clearly, she had previously had a major surgery in that area—I was thinking breast cancer. And, yet, this woman was so cheerful and communicative with the patrons who were checking their items through the line. It gave me pause.

On the way home, I had one more stop to make at another business. It was there when I saw a man who appeared to have artificial legs from below his knees. Although his legs were covered by long pants, I could see that the man struggled with walking and that his legs were stiff. But he maneuvered through the store with a countenance that did not display his pain.

Three people—each with extraordinary stories about their past and about their lot in life. Three people—their respective physical conditions notwithstanding—gave me (through no knowledge of their own) the true gifts of reflection, appreciation, and gratitude during this holiday season.

This I have learned …

Enjoy the season!