It was Christmas Eve at Wal-Mart where I met the faces of Christmas.
Panic was frantically looking at toys with Worry. Excitement shopped with her kids, Enthusiasm and Spirit - looking for the perfect gift for dad. Nag fussed at Overbearing for spending too much on Selfish and Greedy. Exhausted shuffled behind an overloaded shopping cart - muttering something about Lazy (who was on a deer hunting trip). Tightwad clinched his wallet while complaining to Thrifty about prices. Shameless took the last three pumpkin pies while Disgruntled watched in utter contempt. Happy whistled a jazzy version of Jingle Bells - much to Depressed's disdain. Fanatic snapped up half-priced Christmas cards, ornaments and other decorations.
Grumpy shook his walking cane at Hyperactive - swearing to never shop on Christmas Eve again. Slovenly bought everything but a razor and shaving cream. Friendly offered his place in line to Senior Citizen, but Courteous failed to live up her name. Gracious realized that everyone else was a little bit stressed too - she just waited for Patience until he finally showed up. Angry seemed to be lurking at various locations throughout the store (as if he could make Holiday move any faster)! And, wouldn't you know it, Impatient couldn't wait to let everyone know that the checkout lines were long. Contented was satisfied with a simple checkers game - she just smiled when Demanding wanted to know why the store was closing early on Christmas Eve.
Perfection couldn't find the perfect gift so Practical suggested a couple of calendars - one as a gift and one to keep - in hopes that next year she'd notice the other 360-plus shopping days other than Christmas Eve. Tardy arrived about three minutes after the store closed - no kidding, he looked just like Panic! And, that's no surprise, they both pal around with Procrastinator.
But, the face I remember most was Patriot's. He was one of the lucky ones. You see, the Army let him come home for Christmas - all the way from Iraq. Patriot had flown on military transports for almost two whole days - the last leg of his trip on a commercial airliner - arriving home at midday, Christmas Eve. Patriot resembled some of the other customers - like Excitement, Enthusiasm and Spirit. He acted like Friendly and Gracious. He sounded like Happy and shopped like Contented. But mostly, he resembled his parents - Pride and Honor.
I couldn't help but notice how Patriot lingered in the grocery aisles - so many choices, so many flavors - and that was just in the ice cream freezer. He paused for a few moments in produce - carefully choosing fresh fruit and vegetables. At the deli, he requested thinly sliced meats, gourmet cheeses, and fresh potato salad. From the bakery, he chose a single loaf of hot French bread. For Patriot, there was plenty of everything, the prices were fair, and I think I heard him say, "What crowd?" As he was leaving the store, I noticed a certain "far-away" look in his eyes - I don't think it was the icy wind that caused his eyes to water. No, it wasn't the wind. In that moment, his thoughts were back in Iraq with his fellow soldiers - knowing that their Christmas wouldn't begin to compare with his. It wasn't guilt he felt - it was a feeling of intense camaraderie. Patriots think like that, you know.
In one short week, Patriot will begin the return trip to Iraq. I just hope that Prayer and Support go with him - it's a long trip to a chaotic destination, even for a shopper like Patriot. Maybe - just maybe - if Prayer and Support go with him, Peace will soon follow.
Copyright © Virgil Fleming, Wilmer, AL, USA
Reprinted with permission