Signs of the Season

My day changed, when my shopping buddy for the afternoon ended up not feeling well. I’m sending healing thoughts to grandson Oliver and I hope that we get to go on his shopping trip tomorrow. Late in the day I headed out to do a little shopping on my own, with the Inspiration Starter I had drawn out of the jar in my pocket.

I selected this slip of paper:

I’m not sure what my intention was when I wrote that starter out in July. However today that piece of paper tucked into my pocket made me very mindful of my surroundings and the signs of the season, which were everywhere.

I was very intentional in the photos that I took. Here are some of the highlights.

The store parking lots were full this afternoon. But these gorgeous lamp posts towered above the cars, the crowds, the busyness. And as the already overcast day became darker, they offered welcome pools of light.

I decided to skip this stop, since I only needed a couple of small gift bags. You can imagine why!

Traffic was steady and heavier than normal for the time of day. Which caused me to sit through this stop light, after I didn’t go to Walmart. I didn’t mind the delay. In fact, being at that red light created a significant opportunity for me.

Unfortunately, homeless people on busy street corners are a sign of the season as well. Joplin, like other cities, has too many people who are in need. We have shelters and wonderful programs that offer assistance. And yet, I saw several people sitting in the chilly drizzle, holding up signs. This man’s sign was lettered with the words: HOMELESS AND DISABLED.

I often feel torn about how to help. I’ve given money, and looked the other way, handed out gift cards, and hurried on through the light rather than stop. It is difficult to know whether every person holding up a sign has legitimate hardships.

Today, being mindful, being so close to Christmas, feeling great compassion in my heart, it didn’t matter whether this man’s needs were legitimate, or not. I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t drive on.

I tapped my horn lightly to get his attention and held up the cash that I had. He walked with difficulty to my car, where the window was lowered. I apologized for honking at him. He said it was okay. After we exchanged a few words, I handed him the cash. And at the exact same time, we both said, “God bless you.” The man dropped his head and bent low, then looked up with tears in his eyes. I immediately had the same response. I can’t explain what happened. But for a moment, we connected, soul to soul. I wished him well, and a warm place to sleep, as the light changed to green. He called out ” thank you, thank you”. I cried as I drove away.

On my way to pick up dinner, I enjoyed Christmas lights…from the joyfully ridiculous dancing Santa in a hula skirt watched over by the gigantic soldier…to gorgeous homes that looked like Christmas card covers.

Santa apparently dines at Cracker Barrel and wears overalls before his big night. And discount prices on Christmas items told their own stories about the approaching holiday.

Tonight, I am working on final Christmas projects and preparing to wrap gifts. As I work, one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, is playing on my laptop. I have two films that I watch every year at this time. This is one of them. As many times as I’ve seen it, there is always something new, some fresh aha. Why? Because I am not the same person who watched it the year before.

I am sipping hot rose hips tea, and enjoying the complex and interconnected stories that are unfolding in the film. Some make me smile. Others make me tear up. A few of the stories break my heart open. Alan Rickman is in this movie, and seeing him is bittersweet. I am reminded of the crucial role he has played in my year, inspiring me with his words.

The signs of the season, they are everywhere. How those signs are interpreted and the stories they tell depend on the heart and mind of the viewer. I am very grateful for that slip of paper that pushed my awareness to a higher level today and helped me to see in a bigger way. This is the season of love and peace, loss and sacrifice, joy and hope. I am so glad there is hope.

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