So, chemo's not going so well. Actually, I think that chemo is going exactly as it is supposed to. I do this funny thing where I just decide that things are going to happen a certain way. I seem to think that just by sheer willpower I can escape side effects that are universal with chemotherapy. Silly, huh? I set myself up for disappointment when I actually sleep for three days, or when I stand in front of the refrigerator wondering why we don't have anything good to eat.
So the universe will have to forgive me for not feeling as Christmassy as I ought to. Yes, all of my gifts are purchased and wrapped. The tree is still standing straight (usually by this time it's leaning to one side or the other). I've caroled, shopped, churched, baked, and traditioned myself as much as possible. One might say I'm ready for Christmas. But I know the truth. I have been too tired and honestly, feeling a little too sorry for myself to get into the spirit.
This morning I woke up determined to do something beyond the four walls of my bedroom, where I've been since my last infusion on Tuesday. I wanted to bake cookies. There are certain tastes and smells that mean "Christmas", and I wanted them in my house today. So I went to Wal-Mart. I needed only a few things--powdered sugar, butter, eggs. I didn't bother much with makeup or wardrobe. I just wanted to go fast so I could get home fast.
I was so caught up in hiding my non-made-up face behind my big sunglasses that I didn't notice him at first. I was in a rush, but Mack was not. He never is. Mack is a greeter at my local Wally World. It's his job to say hello to everyone, give directions, wipe down shopping carts, and put stickers on return items. If I had to guess, I'd peg him in his mid-sixties but it wouldn't surprise me if he was younger. He walks with a limp, as if he never quite healed from an old injury.
Now, I'm more of a Kroger girl when it comes to grocery shopping, but there are days (like today) that the Mart is good for one-stop shopping. I've been there enough to know that Mack is a fixture. He is as steady as the stream of people that pass by him each day. He stands in the entryway of the giant store, often leaning on a cart to support his weak leg. He must get tired. He has to be bored. I can't imagine spending hours every day at such a menial task. Better Mack than me.
But this morning, the Saturday before Christmas, when I was completely wrapped up in ME, Mack made a difference. He greeted me, like he's done a hundred times before. There were people in front of me, and lots of people behind me. But Mack made me feel like I was the only person there. He gave me a huge smile that showed his teeth, made eye contact with me, and then he said, "Merry Christmas."
And as I pushed my cart into the aisles with all the other Saturday-before-Christmas-crazies, I couldn't help but think: Mack gets Christmas. Mack IS Christmas. Mack works a seemingly unimportant job that surely doesn't pay nearly enough. He is physically inept. From where I (and most of you) stand, he is at some disadvantage. But Mack embodies the spirit of this season: J-O-Y. He made me believe in our second of contact that there was nowhere else he would rather be than right there in that windy atrium, welcoming me to my friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart. He made me think that I mattered, and he had the smile and the kindness to back it up. He put someone else ahead of his own needs and wants.
That sounds like quite a load to attribute to a man I don't even know, doesn't it? Maybe so. But when it is so easy to get lost in the endless to-do lists, and when the budget it blown, and when "peace on earth" is out of sight, and when the season doesn't make sense...I think we should be even more on the lookout for the true spirit of Christmas. So here's to you, Mack...have yourself a merry little Christmas. As for me, I baked those little almond cookies and sprinkled them liberally with sugar. Tonight I will share them with my family and make a new holiday memory. 'Tis the season.