It doesn’t take much to get this old fool to occasionally weep over things worth weeping about – especially at this time of year when we should all soften our hearts just a bit more than usual, as we’re reminded of what love really means, with all the of the philosophical, temporal and eternal implications that the birth of “the God in the Cave” brings, as Chesterton put it.
What all this metaphysical musing boils down to is that whatever we do on a personal level — the good and the bad — matters.
The doorbell had just rung a few minutes before noon this past Christmas Eve. At the door was a man who looked vaguely familiar. He had a touch of sadness about him, and a gift bag in his hand.
It turned out that he is the father of neighborhood kids from around the corner.
A few months ago, Charlie the dog had gotten loose from his leash as his girls were walking him. It was dark, but my wife and I could hear their screaming just before a sickening thud resonated out of the blackness from 100 feet away at the end of our driveway.
The driver never stopped; never even slowed down.
There, motionless in the middle of the lane, lay Charlie. We then saw the silhouette of Dad, doing the hard thing in shielding his daughters from the gruesome sight and, after sending them home, he made his way toward the spot to recover Charlie.
I went down to him and offered fumbling comfort to this stranger by intimating that we’ve also been through this pain — just as a simple expression of empathy. I then offered a wrapping for the animal.
Returning to the garage, I saw my wife ready with a blanket to offer.
He was profusely appreciative: this strong younger man, weakened by hurt for his daughters, pressing on with the duties of fatherhood with admirable grace.
Time had gone by; my wife and I had mostly forgotten about the matter. But the man had not.
I immediately thought of the gallantry that must posses this man in returning to a location that holds such a bad memory for him and his children. We exchanged brief pleasantries and, handing the bag to me and shaking hands, he bade us thanks and Merry Christmas, and then he was off.
Inside the bag was a new blanket, with a note from the man, and some coloring art with notes of thanks for our modest intercession — offerings of wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the kids. My wife and I both wept.
Rare is the opportunity to realize the importance of a kindness freely extended then easily forgotten. As with ill will, good will resonates more than we can possibly know.
But this time, on Christmas Eve, we received what is among the sweetest of Christmas gifts imaginable: an unexpected kindness reciprocated; and an important reminder that, though they don’t always command our attention, thoughtful people are everywhere.