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A stranger's kindness touches for life

Several weeks ago, I was shopping with my 6-year-old son at a local discount store. We had come to purchase some school supplies, and with that done and extra time on our hands, decided to browse. We came upon two aisles, all decked out for Christmas. Surprised to see the season's trinkets so early in the year, we delved forward to see what was new. We strolled past innumerable Christmas lights, the obligatory Santa statue, and farther down the aisle toward the nativity scenes. One quickly caught my eye. I pushed the button labeled "Start," and my son and I watched as wise men and camels paraded past the manger, turning as they came in front of the newborn babe. We spoke about baby Jesus, and shared a thought or two. I glanced at the price tag and then reluctantly walked away.

Some time later, at the other end of the store, I heard a voice behind me. I turned to see a woman holding a large box. "Ma'am," she said, "this is for you," as she handed me the box. I then realized that this was the nativity scene I had admired earlier. I stood there amazed, I imagine with my chin about dragging on the floor.

I was finally able to muster some words and said, "Why would you do this?"

The woman pushed the box toward me saying, "Have a merry Christmas."

My only reply was "Thank you." I took the box from her outstretched hands as she spoke.

"Here is the receipt. Tell them at the checkout that it has already been paid for."

"Thank you so much!" I said again, and she turned and was gone.

I have since told this story to whoever will listen; I still get goose bumps when I tell it. I had heard of these "random acts of kindness" but had never been on the receiving end before. What a wonderful feeling. What a wonderful lesson for my children, who will hear this story again and again each year as we celebrate the wondrous Christmas season. I am sure that each year as we watch the camels and wise men pass, we will remember the unknown woman who shared of herself by sharing this gift.

Of course the true gift is the love that the Christmas season brings to us all _ the reminder that we are loved, unconditionally. Just as the "unknown woman" gave unconditionally, so can we all. We can give of ourselves, make a difference in someone's life. Be it great or small, random acts of kindness not only benefit the recipient, but the giver as well.

I'm sure we've all heard these kinds of stories before; the man who pays for the next hundred people at the tollbooth, or the gold coins left anonymously in the Salvation Army kettle. These random acts speak volumes. Amid all that is wrong in our world, the unmentionable crimes, homelessness, and parking lot arguments, glimmers of kindness shine like beacons. George Bush called it "a thousand points of light." Mother Teresa called it love. No matter how it is said, it comes down to kindness. Something our world needs a little more of.

Christmas in September. Not only in September, but every day of the year. The unconditional gift that was given to us all.

Kristin Rossman is a free-lance writer in Oldsmar.