Monday, November 15, 2010

Stories are Gifts

I left Canmore early yesterday morning to head to church on my own in order to rehearse with the kids for the upcoming Christmas concert. I had Christmas music to listen to in Jason's car, but I savoured the one hour drive to Calgary in silence, enjoying the view of the mountains in my rear view mirror and the prairies spreading out in front of me. My mind wandered wherever it wanted to go, slowly working out issues with the Christmas play, and my novel, and even thinking up my dinner menus for the upcoming week.

When I arrived at church I was in such a relaxed state. I wish I always felt that serene and calm, but then again, usually we are rushing the kids out the door, and listening to their chatter all the way there and the space for the kind of mental openness I had yesterday is simply not available to me. I treasured it while I had it, storing mental quiet away as a squirrel would hoard nuts for the winter.

After church, I went to a nearby mall to have lunch, read my book and finish off my Christmas shopping. I picked an older mall because I don't like malls in November, and it was a ghost town, which added to my sense of peace and joy. Only moms of young children can fully understand how enjoyable it can be to wander aimlessly up and down store aisles with no children whining or complaining that they are bored and want to go home.

I finished my shopping and went through the Starbucks drive thru on the way home for my first peppermint mocha of the season. I prefer Tim Hortons to Starbucks for eleven months of the year, but leading up to Christmas, no one beats Starbucks for holiday drinks and a sense of festive cheer. I felt a surge of happiness as I placed my order, only to be told by the girl on the other end of the tinny speaker, "I'm sorry, we are out of peppermint mocha right now."

Pardon me? In Banff we tried to go to Starbucks and couldn't even get in the door, so ended up with festive drinks from Second Cup instead, but I love peppermint mochas and had been thinking of one on and off all day. I come to Starbucks a handful of times per year, and now, after all of my anticipation, they were out? My disappointment was not proportionate to the situation. It was huge. It was limitless.

I sat there, quietly stunned, aware that there were many cars behind me and I had to say something to the girl. I glanced at the pictures of the holiday drinks and quickly ordered an eggnog latte, a drink I should love because eggnog is like mother's milk to me, but I've had it before and was always disappointed in the strong, syrupy taste. I pulled up to the window and paid with a mournful feeling.

She handed me the cup, I thanked her, and as I drove away, I saw the cardboard holder around the well-marketed red and white Christmas cup. It said, "Stories are gifts - share." Immediately my spirits lifted as I thought about the simplicity of that statement, no doubt hatched up by a brain trust of people at Starbucks' corporate office, but true nonetheless.

Our stories are gifts, and you don't have to be a writer to share them. Everyone has something to say that can lift the hearts of other people, connecting us together, if we will only value ourselves and others enough to share together. It gave me a moment of inspiration to restore my light heart, at exactly the moment I needed it. And then, I took my first sip of the eggnog latte, and discovered that it was absolutely delicious. It wasn't what I wanted, but it was a pleasant surprise, and so much of life works that way if we stay open to the possibilities.

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