“The quality of this first picture is nothing to write home about, but it’s one I took a year ago as a tired mom, for a reason. To remind me of the kindness of others during a busy Christmas season. Last Christmas season, I walked into the thrift store, filled with people all making their Christmas purchases of wrapping paper, Christmas tins, and little ornaments. Thrifting is something I’ve always enjoyed, a great way for a thrifty mom to save money for the family while being conscientious of the environment by giving new life to items. It’s something I have always had a knack for.
During the time leading up to Christmas 2019, I must admit I was feeling a little unnoticed. As a mother, so many times you can end up constantly noticing others’ needs but not having yours noticed or fulfilled. Sometimes you feel like no one is looking out for the one who looks out for everyone else. I didn’t know at the time I walked into one of my favorite stores that, in short order, I would feel noticed and loved.
I browsed the store quickly, as I normally do, saw my fellow thrifting buddy there, exchanged hellos happily, and we each continued in our pursuits.
Spending a minute in the women’s sweater aisle, I found a cute cardigan. I picked it up and carried it around in my cart for a while. I found more than I thought I would along the way, including lucking out in the children’s books section. Finally in line at the end of my visit, looking through my things, I found myself putting the sweater on the return rack (I often do this as a conscious habit to weed out a couple of things). As cute as it was, I didn’t need it, and the goal of my shopping that day was to get the kiddos and nieces a couple of fun Christmas gifts. I made my purchase and left the store feeling accomplished, having gotten a great deal on the things I bought.
That next Sunday, I sat down in the pew at church next to my husband. There was a Christmas package sitting next to him. He told me my friend (the one from the store) had given it to him, and she told him it was for me. Intrigued, I set the package under the pew and silently wondered what it could be. After the Christmas service, I opened the package and was amazed and touched to find the same cardigan looking up at me from the wrappings.
To be honest, I love to give and have been the silent giver often, but I was shocked and amazed to be on the other side at that moment when I really needed it. You can imagine my confusion mixed with a blanket of connection when I saw the very sweater I had touched and put back at the returns rack. How did she know I had looked at it? And when did she even grab it? Had she seen me pick up the cardigan, think, and then return it to the rack? But I thought we were both so distracted in our shopping, how did she even catch that??
I tried to piece it together but was still dumbfounded. When I thanked her for her thoughtfulness, I asked her, ‘How did you know I had my eye on that?’ She simply said she saw me put it back, and she had the impression to pick up the cardigan. ‘Something told me to get it. Strange, huh?’
It wasn’t strange to me. It was beautiful! What she didn’t know was that I was feeling unseen in my efforts that week, and this was just what I had needed.
She had received a distinct impression, acted on it, and made sure the cardigan found its way to me. I felt seen, the very thing I felt I was lacking. Such a simple act of kindness made me feel seen and noticed. That day showed me my needs were known and I was loved. There was a really warm feeling in knowing I was noticed, seen, and thought of at a time I didn’t think I was. This quote I had heard years ago came to my mind: ‘The Lord does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.’ (Spencer Kimball)
God was using someone else to tell me, ‘Hey, no one has forgotten about you. I see your efforts trying to be a good mom and the work you put into taking care of other friends and family around you. And you are loved and noticed.’
I just needed to be seen, as silly as it sounds.
Any parent or mama can relate to this. Just so much goes into being a parent. Every meal, every snack, every thought-out activity or planned-out effort. I literally remember thinking, ‘It would be cool if someone surprised me with something, just something thoughtful since that is how I feel loved and seen? Just something super small.’ I remember wondering, ‘Does anyone see me and what I’m doing here?’
He knew I didn’t need the sweater. He just knew I needed to be seen.
When I look at myself in the sweater, I don’t see myself: I see a reminder of the power of kindness. It reminds me to slow down. We were both there on a sale day, but she wasn’t so rushed as to miss an opportunity to act in love. It really is the simple things, the little things we don’t want to miss, like lifting another, somehow, someway. We all need a little of that this season.
If I’m completely honest… I was wearing a bit thin in my responsibilities around being a good mother, specifically, and I just felt like I gave so much and wondered if I was being seen for my efforts. I had helped out a few friends during the Christmas season, and I just felt a bit forgotten. I realized that I was giving (something I truly love to do) and not receiving back.
That cardigan always reminds me to look around and think of others and how they may be feeling. That week I had been worn to the core in my responsibilities and had felt unnoticed. Having that experience helped me want to keep striving to be that person in the world for others.
It’s not the cardigan at all then, is it? It’s what it means. That someone was still enough, was off their phone enough, was human enough, to see me, then, more importantly, to act on something that must have been important to her, acting on an instinct. That says a lot about her.
As a lover of making myself the best I can be, and being a values and life balance coach, I’m naturally drawn to seeing the potential we have inside us to be our best selves. What if our best self is wired for human connection? What if we don’t reach our full potential when we don’t reach out in small actions, not because we don’t care but because we don’t know how to do it anymore in a world of distraction devices. What do I value? Do I value my own comfort more than thinking outside of myself?
We have the bittersweet reality of slowing down this year… What are we doing with that? Being distracted by our phones? Maybe there’s someone right under our nose who could use a little ‘just being seen and noticed.’ We all need a little of that.
May we put our devices down, feel the power of human connection. Maybe it’s someone at the store. If you’re not going to the stores right now, maybe it’s someone under your roof. Maybe a child who wants to be heard and seen. Or maybe it’s just you at home this year, and what someone needs is you to step out of your comfort zone with a good old fashioned phone call this holiday season.
It’s the little things. The little differences. They can be so small and impactful.
There are great uses of technology for our good to spread these good messages and love. But, then, we get to put the devices down and get to observing and acting. I’m guessing if we look harder, we will find the opportunities: how could we not? Loving our own humanity by being present enough to see them. Truly see.
We can love what matters. What truly matters. We get to decide what that means for us, and it is different for each of us. That’s what’s so beautiful about life. Seeing and honoring each other for where and who we are. And maybe we will make differences in small ways, like that dear woman did for me. Then we will see all our small things aren’t really so small.
Christmas kindness is in the small, unseen moments, one individual at a time.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Clarissa of Northwest Arkansas. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, and her Facebook Group. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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