My "Nice Guy" Christmas

The good feeling of Christmas.

J. Grant Swank is pastor of the New Hope Church in Windham, Maine.

I was in a hurry, driving into the mall's parking lot, hardly looking to right and left. "Slow down!" my right side of the brain instructed the left side. It was somewhere in that mid-conscious level that thoughts were targeting one another for reason. How many errands were buzzing in my tired head. Somewhere in my peripheral vision there was a young girl pushing a load of shopping carts toward the grocery store. There must have been twenty to thirty of those huge metal carriers locked into one another. I had space enough. There was no danger. I could swing around that slow moving train of silver gleam headed for the lineup outside the food mart. So it was that I meandered my car to the right of those carriages, then spied an empty space near the drug store where I could park, dash in for a quick purchase, and then dash back to the steering wheel. As I flung open the car door, I looked up to see that young girl. She was peering straight at me. How could she have gotten to that part of the parking lot so quickly after having pushed all those heavy carts? Any­how, there she was, a hurt look on her face. "When are you going to learn to drive with sense?" she called out to rave, not very happy with my presence. With a sad glance down to the pavement, she turned around, having accomplished what her sense of justice had prodded. Before I realized what had happened, she had disappeared among the cars lined up as toy soldiers. I went into the drug store, bought my trinket, and felt troubled 'way down deep inside. All of a sudden the Christmas cheer had disappeared from my heart. No amount of painted reindeer on poles outside could erase the picture of that girl's look. "What have I done?" I asked my inner wilted self. What I had done was to drive thoughtlessly, carelessly.! had also brought pain to a young person at the most holy season of the year. It simply was not right. But what could T do about it? She was gone, meshed in with the hub-bub outside. She'd be forgotten in the day's upset. However, when I walked toward my car again, there she was. But this time she was not bothering to scold me. She was simply gathering another heap of carriages, tugging at their arms and legs to get them in line for another trip back to the stone wall. I saw her face again. It was not happy. She was cold, tired and wanting to go home after a long day. And then I had added hurt to it all. I lifted the door latch to get inside where it was warm. But I couldn't lift my legs into the car. I had to shut the door and walk over to that girl's side. As I approached her, I thought that she might become scared, thinking I was going to curse her out. So I put out my band toward hers, starting to talk even before I was that close to her. "I am so sorry," I started. "I want you to know that I am really sorry," I repeated, just in case she did not pick up my first words. "I want to apologize to you for what I had done. You see, I was driving and not thinking about where I was going. I saw you, but I did not see you. I saw those carriages you were pushing, but I guess it just did not register all that precisely in my head what was going on. Have you ever had that happen to you?" She looked up at me, wondering what was going on Was 1 into some game-playing or was I truly sincere? "You see, I am really a nice guy. I don't enjoy being rude to people. But I was impolite to you today. I hurt you. And that hurt me. So I just want you to know that I did not mean what I did. And I ask for your forgiveness." She broke into the broadest smile, then reached out her hand to shake mine. A sigh came from her lips, relieved to know that I was not going to add insult to injury. I really was trying to make things right, she reasoned. "Yes, I do know what you are talking about. I have had days like that, too," she laughed, as one human under­standing another. "You know, you really are a nice guy. Thanks a lot. Thanks. Thanks an awful lot." turned and walked back to the car, opened the door, climbed inside, and drove away. As I passed by her and the carriages, she lifted a hand to wave good-bye. I waved back, glad that I had retrieved the nice guy inside. In doing that, I had made two people happy. I had also brought back the cheer of reindeer painted on poles all around me. It was that good feeling that comes especially at Christmastime"... on earth peace, goodwill toward men" (Luke 2:14).