Around Christmas four years ago, after buying our retirement home in Orlando, I went to Hobby Lobby on a quest for new Christmas trees. After living overseas for almost fifteen years, we were finally unpacking household goods that had been in storage. Our Christmas trees were in a sad state of affairs with naked limbs and lights out, so we decided new trees were in order.
While in Hobby Lobby searching for trees, I met a nice young man who went out of his way to help me. He searched the back for that one tree I wanted above all others. And came out victorious.
He talked to me about the trees, made recommendations, and generally made shopping for them less of a chore and more of an experience.
Now let me explain a couple of things. First, we really like Christmas at our house. Secondly, because we like Christmas so much, we have multiple trees. We have one in the den—the children’s tree—decked out in—who else but Mickey and Minnie—we live in Orlando so a Disney tree is not that unusual. Then, we have one outside on the patio—a woodsy theme—the tree is full of birds and birdhouses and nests and bells. And we have a large tree in the living room full of angels and crystals and gold and silver.
I tell you this so you’ll understand the frivolity of me shopping for three Christmas trees.
After purchasing the trees, of course I needed help getting them to my car. The young man offered to assist me with the task and went the extra mile to carefully stow the trees in the back of my car. He was jolly and gracious and made me feel like I was the most important person in the store.
I appreciated the quality customer service I received from him and wanted to thank him, so I reached in my purse and dug out a twenty dollar bill from my wallet. I handed it to him as he got ready to walk away from the car.
“Here let me give you a little something in appreciation for all your help,” I said. “It’s not a lot but it’ll buy you lunch a couple of times.”
He took the bill from my hand with a big smile on his face.
“Thank you, mam,” he said. “I really appreciate it.” Then, he paused for a moment.
I jumped in. “You’ve been such a big help. You’ve gone out of your way for me. I want you to have something extra.”
“I really appreciate it, ma’am,” he repeated. “I was wondering how I was going to eat lunch this week. You see, I’ve had some hard times recently and I didn’t have any more money to last me the rest of the week.”
I stood silent not really knowing what I needed to say at that moment.
He smiled really big as he turned to walk away.
“I can eat lunch now,” he said.
I told him I was happy to do that for him and he deserved it.
I learned something very powerful that day. That I am very, very blessed. And that you don’t know what other people are going through. And that having three Christmas trees is absurd.
I’ve never felt so ridiculous. Here this young man didn’t have enough money to eat and I was worried about having three trees in my house.
But my search for those trees, no matter how absurd, led me to this exact person. A person who needed a little hand up.
A simple gesture of appreciation for a job well done turned out to be something that made a difference in someone’s life.
I think about that young man from time-to-time, especially this time of year, and hope he has done well. And I pray that if he is ever in need again, that someone like me will experience his exceptional customer service and feel led to do a little something extra for him.
God uses us for his purpose even in the smallest of ways.