There was the year that he bought me pink, lots of pink. It was a theme and he carried it out well. There was a pink cashmere cardigan, pink lip gloss, a pink wallet from Kate Spade and pink pearls. I loved it all. But L. was exhausted from the whole shopping thing. He wasn't sure if I still liked pink. Did I already have a pink cashmere sweater? When he innocently asked me if I liked pink I had told him "Yes, ballet pink but not Bazooka pink." This, of course, left him baffled. He told me he had asked the woman at Nordstrom if the sweater was indeed ballet pink and he was tickled pink (if you will) that he actually hit it dead on.
I have a much harder time buying for L. He is a geek who loves technology but also the classics. However, when looking online I'm never certain if he will like the new shaving kit made from artisanal herbs or if he would really use a new wallet that protects your credit cards from wayward rays. I have no idea.
So, this year, we decided to do something new. No gifts. Not to each other, at least. Instead we would take the money that we would have spent on each other and do something good, Intentional Acts of Happiness that would delight someone.
This morning I decided on my first present for L. I stopped into Dunkin' Donuts in Massachusetts. I walked in and asked the employee at the register if I could buy breakfast for the next ten people in line. She looked at me perplexed and then at her co-worker on the next register. I told them both the same thing. I had the Dunkin' Donuts payment app already loaded on my phone so with my phone between the two registers, I walked away and took a seat. I closed my eyes for a moment and thought of L. I wished that he would feel all the joy in that moment.
The first person ordered just a coffee. The server told him that his coffee was covered. He asked by who. She looked over at me and I shook my head no. She looked back at him and said "Merry Christmas!" And so it went. People were baffled. Some seemed put off. They needed to know who was buying their breakfast. One elderly man was digging in his pockets for change when he was told it was taken care of. He teared up. A couple people figured out it was me when the server looked over at me to ask if she should stop since she reached ten. I said "No, keep going."
And so we kept going, ten people, twenty people, thirty people. When my Dunkin' Donuts balance was close to empty we stopped. The server handed me the stack of receipts. I wish I could have stayed longer but I had to catch my flight in Boston. It had been a long time since I had spent such a joy-filled 20 minutes.
As I watched the coffee-thirsty people come in from the rain, some annoyed, I hoped that this small gesture made their day even just a little better. Perhaps, they in turn would allow someone to cut in front of them in traffic or they might buy a coffee for someone someday. Tomorrow I'l be visiting a no-kill pet shelter with an abundance of toys and blankets. It almost feels wrong that this makes me so happy. I can't imagine receiving anything that would make me feel as good as this did.
Do I love the idea of opening presents on Christmas morning? Of course, but knowing that you have the power to enhance someone else's life for just one moment, is infinitely better than any material item.
On Christmas morning, instead of opening gifts, we will sit in front of the fire and tell each other about these Intentional Acts of Happiness. We didn't fight the holiday crowds at the mall, there will be no returns. Instead we gave each other the gift of time and others, joy. It is the perfect gift. Maybe this is something that we'll do just this once. Maybe it will be a tradition. Who knows? Right know all I know is that seeing someone smile is a pretty tough gift to beat.
Merry Christmas. May your heart be filled with joy!