Unexpected Small Surprises
But, when I was eight, a small box wrapped in gold paper appeared under the Christmas tree. It was for me. This was unusual because only Santa brought us gifts, and it would be just the one thing we’d wished for, and often not wrapped. Santa came while we were at Grandma’s Christmas Eve, and put our gifts under the tree. But, here was this gold box, wrapped up for me. I lay on the floor and stared at it for many afternoons trying to imagine what great thing might be in this small package. Christmas morning I bypassed the gift from Santa and went for the little gold box. Once it was in my hands, I didn’t want to open it. Because once I opened it, it would no longer be a surprise. I don’t remember what THE present was that year from Santa, but I remember the small box, the unexpected surprise. I saw the joy my mother received by giving it to me. “Great things come in small packages,” she whispered privately in my ear.
When my turn came around for motherhood, I tried to keep that feeling alive in our home. During Advent my kids created little cribs, and lined them with “straw” representing nice surprises they did for each other, in Jesus’ name while we waited for Him. I miss those times. I miss hearing the small feet running to our family altar with a piece of yellow yarn; I miss the smug smiles that said, “I know a secret, and you’ll be surprised!” This would have been the week we constructed our little cribs.
I’m deliberately watching for situations to restore that feeling of small surprises made great, and the ensuing joy. Last week at the supermarket I stood in line with a bottle of dish soap. The lady in front of me was unloading her tower of groceries. She noticed me and said I should cut in front of her. I thanked her, and stepped ahead. Then I snagged a Hershey bar. As soon as the cashier rung it up, I laid it on her mound of groceries and whispered to the cashier not to charge her for the Hershey bar. I thanked her again and headed for the door where I heard her exclamation of surprise when the clerk explained the candy bar. Then I experienced the same joy my mom had felt years ago when she gave me an unexpected surprise.
There is a book by Jennifer Lacovelli titled Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day, that talks about this kind of giving. I try to make giving part of my everyday life, but this Advent I’m going in deliberate search of little joys to share and put surprise in other people’s days. Other authors have called this “Random Acts of Kindness,” or “Pay it Forward.” But, whatever it’s called, it can create a domino effect and there you have it: great things in little packages!