63. The Battle of Perspectives

63. The Battle of Perspectives

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

The Battle of Perspectives

Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.

~Author Unknown

I’ll never forget the first time it occurred to me that some of life’s battles are just a matter of perspective. It was Christmastime. I had only been married a few months and we did not have the first candle, blinking light or piece of tinsel to make the season bright. Our budget was small, and the enormity of the problem of a Christmas without decorations was causing my heart to palpitate to the theme from Jaws.

Suddenly, the angel of bargain shoppers appeared unto me (in the form of an ad in the newspaper) and said something to the effect of, “Fear not, for I bring you good tidings of great joy! There is a store going out of business, open twenty-four hours a day, with greater discounts each week. Tonight at midnight, everything will be an amazing seventy percent off! This includes the trim-a-tree department!”

“Ho, Ho, Ho and Merry Christmas to me!” I snarled and sneered. It was 1:30 a.m. when I grabbed that oversized shopping cart.

Have you ever been shopping at some strange hour and wondered why there were so many people shopping at such a weird hour? Talk about no room at the inn. This place was overflowing with customers. Obviously, the angel of bargain shoppers has a big mouth.

I battled my way through the masses and slowly made my way to the decking-your-halls area. And there it was… aisle upon aisle, packed floor to ceiling with every imaginable Christmas decoration. I had definitely hit the mother lode. But by the looks of things, everyone else in the greater Dayton area had discovered my jackpot too. This particular part of the store made a war zone look tidy. Stuff was thrown anywhere and everywhere, with each shelf ransacked into complete and utter chaos. I quickly decided that bargain shoppers are just a small step above looters and that last week’s fifty percent off had been good enough for most folks.

I went into full-blown combat mode. I grumbled, fussed and manhandled my cart up and down each mistletoe row. I spoke only once to a two-female enemy unit that was trying to take the same aisle. I pointed to the debris-strewn floor and said, “I’d get out of your way, but I can’t get my cart through these aisles.” Let’s just say my tone probably reflected a bit of tension.

Within minutes I heard these two women talking from the next row over. “I don’t know why people come shopping at this hour if they’re going to be grumpy,” one of them said. The first thing that caught my attention was that she said it in a nice voice! How could anyone be nice under such conditions? I was shocked. Bargain shoppers didn’t talk in nice voices. This looting stuff was hard work. Then something else started to dawn on me. Were they talking about me? They thought I was grumpy?

From my perspective, I thought I was being nice just by talking to them! The brief exchange was my way of establishing a superficial bond as comrades-in-arms. After all, they were the competition, potentially going to beat me out of some jingle-bell door hanger. So to my way of thinking I had just offered a ceasefire.

Besides, wasn’t everybody grumpy at 2 a.m. while belly crawling through a virtual foxhole of merchandise to snag a really cute nativity set at seventy percent off? Don’t we all get a little testy as we charge the next hill of discarded wreaths for that adorable inflatable snowman? Honestly, I was working so hard to find just the right decorations that I’m pretty sure I had stopped bothering to breathe for the last fifteen minutes! Then I heard these women laugh! Can you imagine? They were actually talking in nice voices and having a good time! How could it be so?

I stood puzzling and puzzling this dilemma until my puzzler was sore. Sure, it was easy for the two of them to have a good attitude. They probably already had a lawn full of dancing reindeer and a waving Santa. But I, on the other hand, felt just like Bob Cratchit, without so much as an extension cord to my name.

Then I thought of something I hadn’t thought of before. Maybe those two women thought this was fun. Perhaps from their perspective, this was a chance to enjoy each other’s company and welcome the holiday season. Maybe they came into this situation with an attitude that was happy and they thought of this shopping excursion as an adventure, not a battle to be won. Maybe there are some things in life that don’t have to be quite so hard. Perhaps little adventures, like bargain shopping at 2 a.m., was one of those things. And just maybe it’s up to me to make that choice. Then, just like the Grinch’s heart, my small perspective grew three sizes that day!

~Jaycee Burgess

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