It was a day, it was a day like most of the days I live. I had things to do and places to go, just like most everyone.
On this particular day, I had to drive to Sioux Falls, as happens, and so, after morning Mass, I hit the road. One of the things I find on this trip, which can be rather repetitive, the same roads, the same towns, the same stops, is that my mind just sort of wanders. I don’t necessarily notice the other vehicles, or the people in them, or the people I meet at my stops.
I just stop, get gas, or water, or a candy bar, or whatever. I go to the counter and I chat a few moments with the people behind the cash register.
On this day, I was in a great mood; there is no particular reason why, I just was. The sun was shining and the weather was good for traveling. I had plenty of time to drive and was not in a great rush. I was noticing the beauty of the autumn prairie around me and the people working hard in the fields.
The news on the radio was not as bad as it could have been. It was just a good day and a good drive and I was in a good mood.
So when I made my stops to get gas, or stretch my legs, or indulge in a Snickers bar with almonds, I spent a bit more time at the counter, chatting and joking with the person checking me out, I was struck by something that was said, said twice.
On the way to Sioux Falls, I stopped at a gas station in Summit and on the way back, I stopped at one of the stations in Brookings. In both places, I walked up to the counter, whistling, in a great mood and in the middle of a great day, and made some light hearted banter with the cashiers.
At both stops, the cashier said, “Wow, someone’s in a great mood.” I had to agree with them, and at both places I asked, “you sound surprised that someone is in a great mood.”
Both of them gave the same reply, “It’s been a while since someone has come up to the counter and not been crabby.” Yikes.
As I got back into my car and continued my trip, I let my mind wander to those times when I have gone up to those counters and, for whatever personal reason, I have decided to let my darker mood darken theirs as well. It was a small bit of repentance (I am usually not in too dark a mood), but then I thought about the interactions they must have every day.
People who serve us in a multitude of ways, who are simply doing their jobs, must encounter a multitude of slights as people unload the stresses of their day upon them.
I am not setting myself up as an example of how to live, it was just a good day, but I did have to think about what it means for people to encounter me as I pass through the day.
The feature story this month in “The Bishop’s Bulletin” is a reflection of how “Christian virtues are more than just being nice.” It is a good reflection on the great gift of the virtues in our lives, but it is not, of course, meant to be an excuse to stop being nice.
We can so easily forget that how we live makes a difference on those around us. I found it rather sad that my having a good day, and simply wanting to share the wonder of that, would be considered so rare, and perhaps so odd, that it would merit mention, not once but twice in a single day.
During this Holy Season, when we celebrate the great gift of Christ’s birth, and His manifestation to the world, we sing ancient songs that speak of joy given to all the world, the tidings of comfort and joy we offer to others, of being joyful and triumphant. These are meant to be expressions of our embracing the truth of this Holy Birth, and showing that it means something to us; that it matters to us and to the world.
This entails one of the most important things we ever do…choosing. As we make our way through our day and our lives, we have the ability to choose, each moment and each encounter, how we will present ourselves. We choose whether encountering us at any given moment will be a joy or a struggle for each person we meet. We choose whether to bring light or darkness.
It is wonderful to imagine how much impact we have simply by choosing to let a little light, and joy and happiness shine.
As we begin a new calendar year, we are blessed, as every year, to begin during the celebration of Christmas. As we make our resolutions and intentions for the next 12 months, may each of us choose to let the joy of this season be a gift we give all the year. Through our small acts of kindness, of joy and of peace, hopefully cheerfulness will not be something that is considered noteworthy, but simply an expression of who we are.
We are a people transformed by the birth of God’s love, and we are privileged to share this gift with everyone we meet; and we are blessed by this birth to choose to do it.