A couple of days before Thanksgiving I chose to go to my local Wal-Mart for some last-minute items. Exacerbated by all of the shoppers, traffic was inching along with folks scouting for parking spots as scarce as turkeys' teeth. I was so frustrated I didn't even bother to get out of the car.
The fact that I was in a hurry was not helped by the fact that it was apparently also the day that our local nursing home brought a bus full of seniors to Wal-Mart.
Since the rain had finally stopped I had the window down. My attention was drawn toward the door by the familiar ringing of a Salvation Army volunteer waiting for someone to notice him and drop something into his kettle.
Thoughts of "I need to do that soon," and "I wonder if I have enough to share," and "what a thankless job" surfaced. Before I could entertain them, I noticed a bowed little man, who appeared to be nearing the century mark, emerge from the store.
Dressed rather like Mr. Rogers on a tattered day, he shuffled slowly toward the man with the bell.
It took a while, but he was finally able to extract his worn wallet from a back pocket and fumble thoughtfully through its contents. From where I was stopped, I could barely make out the folded bill he raised triumphantly into the air.
But what I did see clearly was the joy on his face as he placed his offering in the waiting pot.
He gave me a gift, too. I was able to see a shining example of unselfed giving.
I may spend Thursday at a table full of food, surrounded by a loving family. But that one man's determined gift made me realize the importance of taking the time to reflect on what I'm grateful for during my preparations for that special day as well. Sometimes those frustrating moments in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic or a crowded store are when we need that kind of inspiration the most.
Without even being aware of it, my new "friend" reminded me how thankful I am that there are people like this to love and care and inspire us all.
Christie Clarke is the president of Out-A-Box Group, Inc.
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