The only prerequisite required of winners is a smile, one that's not the result of an interaction either from greeting us in our Santa hats or talking with someone in person or on a cell phone. The person has to appear genuinely happy over the course of our somewhat stalking them around the mall.
AS soon as we entered the mall, we noticed our first "smiler," a woman driving a motorized cart with a pleasant expression on her face. Determined to not give a gift card away too quickly, we took a group vote and began our search officially.
Actually we walked and stalked for when we found a potential happy person we tailed them for a while checking the longevity of their smile. We followed a half dozen folks at most for as Ella noted it seemed only the women were slightly happy and there were only four or five happy women at that. True to Christmas Eve's past when we've done this, most folks are sullen and serious. As we stalked the few candidates found, the woman in the motorized cart appeared often and yes, she always had what I would call a soft, gentle smile. Was she truly happy to be alive on what for many adults is the most pressure-filled, tense day of the year as food's prepared, gifts are readied and families anticipated?
As the woman entered a store, we sat on a bench to eat See's candy samples and continue our search. This was how we found our first winner. Unsuspecting shoppers passed our watchful eyes, a few we had seen previously including an African American woman with a friend and children. They stopped nearby as we watched. After an eventual unanimous vote in her favor, Ella gave the woman the gift card and explained what we were doing. The woman opened her arms wide enveloping Ella in a bear hug.
We then followed our initial candidate as she came out of the store and moved through the mall down a hall to the elevator. Not wanting to loose her, we got on the elevator too. I inquired as to the pins on the front of her cart, many which were connected we learned to her military career as a Master Sergeant in the Air Force where she worked on jet aircraft and computers.
Getting off the elevator, the four of us discretely traded affirmative nods, signaling that this woman was a winner. Lily gave her the card as we explained our search for happy people. Our small token or gift of acknowledgment was nothing compared to the gift we were given.
Our new friend, Corina, shared that she was extremely happy to be alive because this time last year she had throat cancer and didn't know if she would live. She spoke of how cancer had taught her to not only appreciate life, but to appreciate and take better care of her body. I choked back tears listening to Corina's story. It was beautiful as was the spirit shining through her.
I awoke this morning thinking about the teaching 'moment' we lost not talking with Ella and Lily later about happiness being found in enjoying life rather than in material possessions. Then I realize they each in their own way 'got it' probably better than if I had gone off on a long Aunt Dawn lecture of sorts.
Upon taking them home, the first thing Ella told her mom wasn't about the many little gifts they had unwrapped under our tree, but the story of the woman at the mall.
Lily on the other hand presented me with a metaphor I'm still absorbing. As the girl's visit concluded, Lily decided she wanted to become a present for her mother. In seconds, a roll of paper, some tape and scissors, transformed Lily into a gift that walked down the street and up the steps to ring the doorbell.
It wasn't until this morning that I realized the deeper beauty in Lily's gift. The best gifts aren't found in stores at the Mall. The best gifts are found in each of us. We are gifts to one another as we share our presence, not just during the holidays but throughout the year. And as Corina's story so beautifully shows, the best gifts are found in the deep joy of being alive or as I experienced on my morning's walk the joy of warm sun on my face in 20 degree weather and the smile of a friend as I stopped in for a quick hello. (And yes, I wore a smile mindful of Corina's smile that day in the mall.)
These are the gifts we give and are given each and every day we live. Children get 'it' while we as adults repeatedly have opportunities to get 'it.' Personally I get 'it then loose 'it' but gratefully keep getting 'it,' the gift of life through practicing presence.
Practicing presence is part of the shift that makes each moment a gift. Thank you, Lily, Ella, Corina and Life!
- Dawn! The Good News Muse