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Joy from a Stranger

How a kind word or gesture blesses both giver and receiver.

A blessing in a grocery store line.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)

It wasn’t a bad week but it also wasn’t a good one. It was the Christmas, years ago, that our oldest son was on his first deployment. Everywhere I looked I found twinkling lights, tinsel trees, smiling people. The more merriment I saw, the grumpier I became.

I was just doing ordinary grocery shopping, but Christmas blared at me from every angle. I got in line with my basket and behind me stepped a young mother with three kids—a baby, toddler and slightly older child. She looked like I felt. Her face was without makeup and her sweatshirt had seen better days.

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The baby began to fuss and he started an avalanche of misbehavior in the other two. Even the mom looked like she was about to cry. She tried to avoid the eyes of the now frowning customers around us. I pulled my few items from the conveyer belt and maneuvered my cart out of her way.

“I’m sorry.” She held out a hand to stop me. “They’re just tired. They’re good kids.”

“I’m not bothered by your family. I think they’re beautiful children.” I smiled at her. “I just know how it is. When they’ve had enough, they’ve had enough. You can go ahead of me. You look worn out.”

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“Thank you so much.” Her smile lit up her once plain face. “Merry Christmas.”

As I watched her leave, I realized my bah-humbug attitude had disappeared. Earlier that day, I’d read the verse above in Proverbs and had assumed it meant when someone spoke a good word, the person they spoke to would be the one who was blessed. Turns out that the good word blesses the giver and the receiver. 

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