I had a dream… and a very small budget. I wanted a beautiful Christmas tree in the front window of my home; yet in the interest of continuing my family’s five-year-pursuit of financial peace, I could not (and would not) go buy a new tree and ornaments.
A few days after I verbalized my dream to my husband, he caught the vision and found a very decent 6-foot tree for $20. It was on! I was going to see just how cheaply I could create beauty in my front window. The following Saturday, I started out for one of those “everything’s a dollar” stores seeking inexpensive lights and ornaments, but when I passed the local Goodwill store I remembered that it was “half-off day” there. Looking at the parking lot, I could see that embarking on this sale was going to be an adventure! But I needed cheap decorations. I knew if Goodwill had any ornaments, they would likely fit my budget!
I walked in and bee-lined for the areas of the store where Christmas items might be lurking. It was a crazy maze of carts and people reaching across one another for the most desirable items. My first find was a gorgeous Christmas tree star for $1.00. I grabbed it quickly, knowing someone would snag it quickly if I didn’t! There were some brand new white frosted glass ornaments, one of which was a white dove (the symbol of peace and a metaphor for the financial peace we have been pursuing)… $1. Score! Then I found a huge bag of more than a dozen copper and gold-colored ornaments… also $1.
It was hard to see everything, with all the carts and people squeezing into each aisle… but somehow my eyes locked onto a gorgeous white and gold porcelain nativity set (still in the original packaging). The price… $2! I would put it underneath my dream tree, which was coming together at a financial-peace-price!
The line to the checkout was long and winding but, as I looked around, it seemed that most people were as excited as I was about their bargains. While passing time in the line, I began wondering what the other people came looking for. But pretty soon an altercation nearby jarred me out of my thoughts. Voices grew louder in the next line. Something was amiss. The people standing around me grew quiet, while a faction of shoppers in the next line grew louder.
“The line begins back there… if you want in line, it starts BACK THERE! We all started BACK THERE…”
“I….was HERE…. blah blah blah….” is what I heard from the middle-aged woman whose voice sounded a little like a cat and whose cart was clearly (but unsuccessfully) trying to merge into the line.
Voices grew louder. Other people in that line began weighing in… and she was mad about it. So I did what anyone might’ve done. I called my sister!
“Big fight at Goodwill!” I said. She begged for details and I willingly gave her a real-time, blow-by-blow report. “Ooohh, they’ve called in a manager… and… it looks like he is telling her to go to the end of the line. OH! She’s not taking ‘no’ for an answer!” My sister, intrigued, stays on the line until the woman jibber-jabbers her way to the back of the line. Her last line as she passed by was, “They can all kiss my behind!”
My sister, relieved that she had piped down, said, “Did she hang her head on her way by everyone?”
“Oh no! Heavens, no. She was prancing. Head-held high…” We laughed at how the lady who was clearly in the wrong was not afraid to tell everyone she passed how she deserved that spot in line!”
“Aaaand, Merry Christmas to you, too…” I thought. (Of course, given her frame of mind, I was too afraid to say it so she could hear me or I might have spent the holidays dead!)
My tree came together beautifully with only a few small additions from local discount stores. I now call it my “Goodwill Tree”. And, while I was happy to find a budget Christmas tree for the front of the house and spread the beauty of the season to guests and neighbors, the experience of finding it was even richer than the fulfillment of my tiny little dream.
I also got a face-to-face confrontation – literally – with the extremes that come with trying to make the holidays special on a budget. We can find incredible satisfaction in being resourceful and creative. Or we can let stress send us over the top and biting the heads off innocent bystanders. It all depends on what we come looking for. Either way, our choices spill over to those around us. Let’s choose peace. And Goodwill!