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Inspirational Story - The Best Gift

Updated on December 19, 2014

As I got into my car after work, feelings of both excitement and anxiety came over me. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I was on my way to volunteer at a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless. It was something that I’d wanted to do for years but never had the courage to do before now. I made excuses that I was too busy, that it was too hard to find somewhere to volunteer. But this year, the opportunity had all but fallen into my lap since my church was looking for volunteers for this dinner.

As I drove to my ex-husband’s house to pick up my daughter, she was coming with me to volunteer, I wondered what to expect. Who would be coming? What would I be asked to do? Should I be bringing my daughter? How would she react? Should I even have agreed to do this?

As we came in to the church to report for our shift, our minister greeted us warmly and thanked us for coming. We stood off to the side, waiting for our assignment. I tried to calm my nerves by reminding myself that I was here to be of service.

We ended up being assigned to the drink table. We prepared glasses of lemonade and iced tea as we waited for more people to arrive. And that’s when I saw him. He came in with two of his friends. He looked the way you would expect a homeless man to look. His clothes were dirty and well-worn in places. His hair and beard were unkempt and looked like they hadn’t been trimmed in a long time.

As he turned to me, a huge smile lit up his face. One that was warm, caring, delight, and pure joy all wrapped up together. You know the kind of smile I’m talking about, a million dollar smile that just lights up a whole room. And for those brief moments, I forgot about my petty concerns like what to buy my kids for Christmas. For those few brief moments, I felt the pure joy, the pure delight that I saw in his smile. For those few brief moments, my world lit up in the glow of that beautiful man’s smile.

In the weeks since then, I have thought about him and that delightful smile often. Is he staying warm? Is he finding somewhere safe to sleep at night? Is he finding food to eat? Is he still smiling?

That smile was the most amazing gift that I have been given this holiday season. It reminded me that no matter what our circumstances may be, there is always, ALWAYS, something to smile about. Joy is a choice, not a feeling that you arrive at after you get the things you want. It is a choice, a daily choice. And I am so grateful to that wonderful man for reminding me.

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