24: Christmas Spirit Regained

24: Christmas Spirit Regained

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Christmas Miracles

Christmas Spirit Regained

Just as you have the ability to change your mind, you also have the ability to change the state of your mind. Happiness and joy are states of mind to be enjoyed any time you want.

~Author Unknown

As a child I didn’t really have fond memories of Christmas, so as an adult, Christmas became a time I just wanted to avoid. I particularly had trouble with all the Christmas music, which seems to be just about everywhere. I guess that was why I volunteered to work that Christmas Eve. The retail store where I worked in downtown Toronto was one of the few that didn’t play Christmas music. But that year I was given the best gift ever — a stranger came along and rekindled my Christmas spirit.

It was the Christmas of 1992 and I was working at my sales job during the busiest season of the year. It’s a time when customers become difficult to please, as tempers and patience seem to be lost in the crowds. Few people are nice to salespeople during this time and working in a store becomes a major challenge.

I was relieved that my shift was over and I could go home to avoid the rest of Christmas. I entered a subway car at the College Park subway station and found a single seat at the back of it, as far from others as possible. I just wanted to get home and be rid of my bad mood.

I hadn’t noticed which station we were in when the stranger with the homeless appearance and boisterous voice entered the subway car. When he started to chat with the other passengers, I purposefully turned my attention to something else. I wanted to make it clear I had no interest in talking to this guy. Then the train was delayed in the tunnel for ten minutes. As we sat there motionless, I was becoming more and more aggravated.

When the stranger started singing “Jingle Bells” I knew I’d had enough, but I was trapped. Then, slowly the other passengers joined in, and soon everyone sang with him. Then, to my shock, I found myself singing as well!

Well, with that guy leading, we sang every Christmas song I remembered from my childhood. When the train finally got going, we continued singing. As we stopped at other subway stations, passengers from other cars ran to join us. The thought of our car filling up with singing people while others were empty made me laugh. Never in my life had I witnessed so many strangers joining together like this to sing.

The subway train reached its last stop on the line and every one stopped to look around at each other. And then the boisterous voice of the stranger cried, “Merry Christmas” to each passenger as they left the train. As I ran to catch my bus, I could still hear people singing as they headed home for Christmas Eve.

Though none of us had ever met each other before that night, and never saw each other again, I felt we’d shared a special and unique bond of Christmas spirit. Since then I carry that spirit with me. I’ve never lost the spirit that I gained that Christmas Eve. I look forward to Christmas now, and when the music starts to play, I remember that special night.

You never know what you might learn from a stranger.

~Judith Smith

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