“Why don’t we each do the 13 days of Christmas for each other?”she said. “Only instead of giving each other turtle doves and French hens and golden rings, we’ll give each other little acts of kindness.”
“Like if you gave me the new ‘Rock Band’ video game,” Jon told his sister, Beth. “That would be a great act of kindness.”
“No, that’s not what I’m talking about,” Anita said. “These acts of kindness are not things that cost money – they only cost our time, attention and creativity.”
You could almost hear the gears engaging in Jon’s17-year-old brain. “But ‘Rock Band’ takes a lot of creativity,” he said. “And I promise to spend a lot of time on it and give it all of my attention.”
“We’re not going to spend money on each other,” Anita said firmly. “We’re going to perform acts of service for each other”
“That sounds like a lot of . . . you know . . . work,” I said, simultaneously channeling the Grinch, Ebenezer Scrooge and the guy who melted Frosty the Snowman – whoever he may be.
“It doesn’t have to be work,” Anita said. “These don’t have to be big things. Just little things to say that we’re thinking about each other, and that we care.”
Even at my Grinchiest I could see that this is a good idea, aimed at helping our family feel the Spirit of Christmas through love and kindness and service to each other. And for the most part it has worked.
Of course, there was the time on Sunday when I was preparing to take my turn doing the dinner dishes. In this case, “preparing” meant I was watching a football game while the dishes sat on the kitchen counter, awaiting my attention.
“Beth is making cookies,” I explained to Anita. “I’m just waiting for her to finish making her mess, then I’ll clean it up as my service to her today.”
Unfortunately, 19-year-old Beth had other ideas. As soon as she put her cookies in the oven she started doing the dishes.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked.
“I’m doing your dishes as my service to you,” Beth said, smiling. “Merry Christmas!”
“You can’t do that!” I said.
“Because I was going to clean up your mess as my act of service to you!”
“Too late!” she said. “You’ll have to find something else!”
She returned to the dishes for a moment, then she announced to her mother: “As soon as I finish in here I’m going to give you a foot rub!”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“You can’t do that!” I said.
“Because I was going to do that as my service to her!” I explained.
“Too late!” she said. “I called it first!”
That’s sort of how it has gone this week: first come, first to serve in a desperate attempt to out-nice each other. And even though I tend to be a little slow on the kindness uptake, I have felt the Spirit of Christmas – which is, at its heart, the Spirit of Love – as I have sought opportunities to serve those who I love most but who, I’m ashamed to say, I often serve least.
Especially when it seems like . . . you know . . . work.