Harley Christmas

December 29, 2016

Greetings from the Heart of SEC Country!!!
Christmas is over and it has been eventful. I hope each and everyone one of you had a Merry Christmas and were able to spend it with loved ones. Mine was rather unique this year because I flew my wonderful wife to see my youngest son. You see, he is attending college and lives with my oldest son and his family in another state.

I know, it sounds complicated. But, it’s a Southern thing, you know.

So, as the oldest flew east to spend Christmas with us and his in-laws, my wife flew west so that the youngest wouldn’t have to spend Christmas alone. Following so far? And, being a very fortunate father, I have 2 more kids locally who I spent parts of Christmas day with, enjoying gift giving and their presence.
For me, this Christmas was special. I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to give more than just a bunch of presents to my family and friends. I thought about it and decided that I could do something meaningful for someone that I didn’t know and to really give meaning to “giving unselfishly” even though I didn’t even know who I was going to give what too.
So, I went to the bank just before Christmas and withdrew some spending money. In addition to this withdrawal, I asked the teller for two 50 dollar bills. I then went to the local pharmacy and got a couple of gift cards with money pouches in them. That in itself was an experience, as most of them had messages intended for grandkids or children. I took the cards, inserted the money into each, and on the front simply wrote, “Merry Christmas.” The next step in this endeavor was to figure out who was to receive these gifts.

I really thought long and hard about this because I didn’t want someone to take offense and think that I believed that they were destitute and, therefore, offend them. I never could decide the hows and whys of whom the cards would go to, so I just took them out to the truck to take with me where ever I went.

I drove to see my Mother, who is in a nursing facility in another town, and my sister on Saturday. I went into the facility and saw a couple of nurses assistants who were fussing over my mother, getting her ready to ride to my sister’s house but I just wasn’t sure.

Maybe stage fright took over, as I had never done this before. Anyway, my visit went well and I took Mama back later in the evening. As I was about to head towards home, I realized I needed gas and pulled into a gas station to fill up. After pumping, I went inside to get something to drink and overheard a conversation at the counter going on and someone say, “Yes, I’m not getting around as good as I was. I’m due in another couple of months.” I got my drink, went to the counter, and observed a young woman behind the counter and noticeably pregnant. I asked here when she was due, if she had any more kids, and commented on her having to work on Christmas Eve.

She was friendly and open and made me smile despite the fact that she had to give up time with her family in order to provide for her family, even on this day. I walked out to the truck and knew that she was the one. I grabbed one of the cards from the console, walked towards the store, and tried to put together something to say to her as that was something that had not even crossed my mind.

So, I approached the counter of the empty store, beckoned her over, and said, “You know, I was in the Marine Corps and still remember the holidays and birthdays and funerals that I missed because I was gone somewhere. I know you’re family appreciates what you’re doing for them, so I hope this helps to brighten your Christmas just a little bit.”

I immediately turned and headed to my truck. As I got in, cranked up, and put on my seat belt, I glanced inside the store. By this time she had walked around the counter, approached the double doors, and was talking to a co-worker and looking out at me. As I pulled past the pumps she had returned to her post and was checking out another customer, but as I drove by she looked out through the windows and excitedly waved at me as I passed.

The events surrounding the second card were much the same as the first, as I stopped by the local convenience store to get a newspaper on Christmas morning. In this case, the young black girl ran to the front door, stuck her head out, and waved as I drove by.
But, the most interesting event that happened to me was the day after Christmas. I was walking through one of the “big box” stores looking for something to give the wife for Christmas, as she was due back from her trip on December 27th. Now, don’t get the wrong idea, I’m usually right on point when it comes to gifting for my bride. But, the airfare for her trip to see the youngest was pretty pricey because she didn’t firm up her plans until late November. We all know how pricey airline tickets can be when you don’t make reservations well in advance AND when they’re around a holiday.

So, with the plan for everyone to get together on that Tuesday, I felt like I needed to get her a couple of things to open, because, well, it’s just not right to watch everyone else open presents and not have anything for yourself.

As I walked around the store, I turned and headed up one of the aisles and as I passed this black gentleman, he spoke to me and said “Semper Fi!” as I was wearing a Marine Corps ball cap (yes, I was covered and inside) and I turned and said “Were you in the military?”

After noting that not many people would greet someone with a comment like he had I told him that you could never tell nowadays with all the stolen valor stories and people claiming to be veterans who weren’t.

He agreed, and the conversation took off.

We exchanged our stories of the Marine Corps with where we had been and what we did, with him being in the Air Wing (a wing nut) and me being a Technician (a spark chaser).

His girlfriend approached us to see who he was conversing with, and as Marines so often do, we began focusing our humor on her, a former Sailor.

But the funniest thing happened as we were about to go our separate ways. He drew his girlfriend close, put an arm around us both, and said, “Let’s say a quick prayer.”

Right there in the middle of Wal-Mart.

Right in the middle of the busy Electronics Department

We removed our hats, bowed our heads, and he said a short, sweet, but plainly audible prayer for all who were within earshot to hear.

Right there in the middle of Wal-Mart.

Right in the middle of the busy Electronics Department

As we said our collective amen’s, we finally introduced ourselves, said our goodbyes, and then went our separate ways.

What a great experience. And, the thing that escaped me until I talked to a friend was simply this. In this day in age, with all the strife and disharmony going on in the world, it must have been some sight to see a black man, a white man, and a black woman huddled up in the middle of Wal-Mart, right in the middle of the Electronics section, all huddled together and praying like they were real brothers and sisters.
So, in a nutshell, my Christmas has been wonderful. I feel that I am truly blessed by the Lord to have enough to be able to share my plentiful blessings with others and to be able to unashamedly embrace another child of God and really showing what “loving your fellow man” is truly all about.
Merry Christmas, everyone. And I hope you have a wonderful New Year
Until next time….

I’m Harley Hanesworth

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