A twenty dollar bill.
Not a lot.
Not insignificant, but in the grand scheme of things it isn’t a lot of money.
That twenty dollar bill in my pocket was for my manicurist. I have resolved several times this year to stop indulging in that particular luxury. The money could be spent more effectively somewhere else, etc. etc. etc. But I keep going back because over the course of the year, Lindsey has started talking to me. For months, I could barely get her to look me in the eye. She is painfully shy. She is from Viet Nam and I occasionally have a difficult time understanding what she says to me. The last time I thought I just was going to quit going back, she smiled at me and thanked me for being so nice to her.
So I continue to go. Really, it isn’t a huge sacrifice. I enjoy the quiet conversation and getting to know her. Her shy smile brightens my day and we have formed an odd friendship. Many of the other clients are loud and boisterous when I’m in there, but Lindsey and I talk quietly and sometimes she will even stop her task and look me straight in the eye as she talks about something.
The shop was very slow and quiet. I asked if she’d been busy and she sighed and shook her head no. Not busy. She supposed that people were busy shopping for Christmas. We carefully discussed a color choice and she said she was going to make sure my nails were extra pretty for Christmas. She takes such care in her work. I asked if she was ready for Christmas and she said no. She said she was glad that Christmas was on Sunday this year, because she didn’t have to miss a day of work. I’m sure she only gets paid for days that she is at work. She had a worried, wistful look on her face.
She told me that she would go to Midnight Mass and how much she loved that service. And that her family would all come to her apartment for Christmas dinner, but not a traditional American dinner. Her eyes glowed as she told me how they celebrated ‘in my country’. She said she misses her family back in Viet Nam during the holidays.
And so she finished the task and before I paid for the service, I slipped the $20 from my pocket to her hand. She burst into tears. She hugged me and thanked me for being her friend. She said I had no idea what that meant to her.
I paid my bill, wished her a Merry Christmas and slipped out into the parking lot that is full of evidence of the affluence that marks our side of town. Tears ran down my cheek as I recalled a time…not so very long ago…when an unexpected $20 meant the world to me. A time when I was a single mom, living paycheck to paycheck and not sure how I was going to afford Christmas for my children.
Oh, yes. I remember. I don’t ever want to forget, because it is from that place that I grew empathy and learned to be mindful of those around me. It was those days of nearly desperate need when I received such generous gifts that I learned what it truly meant to be grateful. No, I don’t ever want to forget those times.
This past year has been one of uncertainty. My Rocket Man lives and works in an industry that is quickly going out of business. We stopped counting the number of friends who have been laid off. I hear that 400 more jobs in our city will be cut after the first of the year. The possibility of unemployment in today’s economy and in his line of work is like an uninvited guest in our home. My job at the Church House is dependent upon the economy and the level at which people will continue to give. It is always there. Always considered in our decisions. A fairly regular topic of conversation.
Through it all, we have been abundantly blessed. However, I know that this Christmas may be the last that we are able to give at our current level.
So while I’m able, I’m enjoying every minute of giving away those bills. Mindful of the cutting back we are going to be doing in the coming year. Staring down uncertainty. I am not going to let that uncertainty take away the joy we have in sharing today, this month and this season. We aren’t going to hoard what we have…just in case. Rather we are holding our riches in open hands, sharing from our abundance and grateful for the opportunity to share.