Outside, the air was cold. Damp. Windy. People hustled to and from the parking lot with chins tucked, arms folded and feet shuffling as fast as they could. I sat in my van outside Wal-Mart waiting for my turn to slowly inch toward the exit, careful not to bump into pedestrians as they crossed.
A familiar bell rang in the background. It was the sound of a Salvation Army worker.
I just love these guys. They make shopping in December festive! They remind me as I enter a store that this is no ordinary trip. I am shopping for a gift to give someone I care about. The time and effort should be enjoyed like savoring my favorite chocolate bar (and not a chore).
Stores who don’t allow The Salvation Army to stand out front are Scrooges. They want to offer an “uninterrupted shopping experience.” Had this worker not been there that day outside of Wal-Mart, there would be no story to tell. I am quite happy for the interruption.
An elderly woman, very elderly, pushed her very elderly and disabled husband’s wheelchair as they left the store and stepped into the crosswalk. A sight not uncommon. But, she also struggled to pull their shopping cart behind her. One hand on his wheelchair. One hand on the heavy shopping cart.
As I waited for them to cross, suddenly the decline of the road caused the shopping cart to pick up speed. Within mere seconds, the shopping cart and it’s bags were headed straight for this poor woman’s back…she was unaware.
My eyes widened as I sat helpless watching. There was no time for me to react. She struggled so much with her husband’s wheelchair – his head hung low as if he were exhausted from the excursion – she had no idea what was about to ram into her back.
The shopping cart picked up speed, and just as it was about to slam into her, throwing her into her husband’s wheelchair or worse, the Salvation Army worker jumped from his post and dashed in front of my van. He caught the cart by one finger and stopped it just as the metal cart brushed the back of her coat.
She was unaware of the danger she was in, and that he had saved her, but that wasn’t all he did. After he caught the cart, with a broad smile, he took hold of the handle and scooted up along side her. They exchanged a brief hello in the middle of the road as he offered to help them to their car.
The elderly woman gladly accepted. They began walking in one direction toward the parking lot, but confused, she changed directions…still pushing her husband’s wheelchair with his head hung low. The Salvation Army worker calmly followed her in the bewildering quest to find their car.
Yes, he left his post with the familiar red tripod holding the red kettle of money. But, he ran to the aid of two people very much in need of help – something no one else passing by them was interested in doing.
He brought back humanity to the Christmas season for me. His actions spoke clearly that people are more important than things. And civic duty is more important than protocol. That going out of one’s way to help someone is the right thing to do.
This man’s random act of kindness has stayed with me every day since. His huge smile and happy heart replays in my mind even more than his actions. It was his pure joy to help them. There was no applause or reward for his kindness. He simply saw an urgent need and ran to meet it. He is a Christmas hero.
He reminds me of another Christmas hero…the first One. Jesus. He came to serve, not be served (Philippians 2:5-7; Matthew 20:28). He left His heavenly post to save us, because He saw we were in grave and certain danger of being eternally separated from God – even if we were completely unaware of it at the time.
Jesus did for us what no one else has ever done. He reached out His hands and let them be nailed to a cross in our place. He did this with joy in His heart (Hebrews 12:2) and a grimace on His bloodied face. He caught us from an eternal fall and saved us from ourselves.
Christmas is so much more than what it appears on the outside. I heard a man say just today that for him, “Christmas is about the three f’s: family, friends & food.” I would add a fourth: faith (not in that order).
Christmas is about Jesus being born so He could die in our place. It’s a time of great joy as we marvel at the sacrifice He made for each and every one of us.
When I think about the Salvation Army worker who, without a thought of himself, selflessly jumped into the road to save an old and exhausted couple, I think of Jesus who hung on a cross to save you and me.
The worker’s act of kindness was spontaneous. However, Jesus knew His time would come from the beginning of creation, yet He came to Earth anyway because He loves us that much.
Let’s continue to enjoy all of the blessings this Christmas season has to offer, but may we never forget why we are celebrating and Who it’s really about.