The other night — Thanksgiving night to be exact — my bride asked me to accompany her to one of the local mercantile establishments. It seems she had seen a “Black Friday Bargain” for a coffeemaker that would be ideal for my office here.
In a moment of obvious weakness, I agreed!
Now normally, I don’t mind going with her to go shopping, simply because I am a people-lover, and a people-watcher. It is exciting to me to observe people in life situations — how parents deal with their children in public, or how wives treat their husbands while standing in line at the checkout lane, just to name two.
I love to observe the ways that customers deal with the individuals who, for little more than the minimum wage, are trying to help them solve their problems.
Most of the time, when my wife asks me to accompany her, I am pretty willing to go. But during this time of the year, between the vacation times of Thanksgiving and “Winter Holiday” (or are we still allowed to say “Christmas”?), I really don’t like to go much.
The lines are long, the parking spaces are few – and distant, the tempers are short, the supply of that special gift I am looking for is never enough (I only need ONE!), and the store workers are likewise in huge demand.
It makes for a very impatient time for even the most patient among us — like me! But this time, even though the crowds were quite large and the lines were quite long, we managed to get through this night in a reasonable time and with the targeted purchase in hand.
Well, normally, the point of going shopping anywhere at this time of the year is almost universally the same: to find that ideal gift for the person who has everything? I remember one of my mother’s almost constant difficulties every year during this season was when she was looking for that gift that she could give. But most of the time, she had figured out how to overcome that difficulty with comparative ease.
My mother seemed to know almost instinctively that she could give one gift that seemed to fit practically every circumstance – the gift of fruitcake! She would go out and buy fruitcake and send it to those whom she determined had everything and would enjoy it.
I can remember as a kid not liking fruitcake very much. In fact, I applauded Johnny Carson the night he proclaimed on “The Tonight Show” that there was only ONE fruitcake in the world, and that everyone just took turns mailing it to those hard-to-buy-for individuals. I never liked fruitcake at all while I was growing up!
But the older I have grown, the more appreciation I have gained for fruitcake. It is indeed the perfect gift!
The Christmas holidays are jam-packed with opportunities for giving this all-important gift. But wait — I am not talking about the kind with nuts, and fruit, and all sorts of sweet and savory tastes.
I am talking about the kind of fruitcake mentioned in Proverbs 18:21: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit — you choose.”
In essence, the gifts we give are our words, and we each have a choice about whether those gifts are fruitful or poisonous. During the days and weeks that are ahead of us, if we are looking for them, we will discover any multitude of opportunities for us to praise God and be thankful for God’s blessings and for the gift of His Son. These are fairly obvious.
But there are also other opportunities that will present themselves – opportunities for these internal feelings of gratitude and praise to be transformed into external, others-centered actions. One tremendously edifying and uplifting goal for each of us this Christmas season is that our speech would simply be overflowing with fruitcake.
Let’s face it. With the crowded stores and streets and parking lots and all, there are plenty of opportunities for each of us to poison those around us with our attitude and our words,
But if we are intentional in giving “the gift that keeps on giving,” the gift of giving fruit and not poison, we will no doubt spread Christmas cheer like we have never seen.
Not only does that fruit help us to cope with the pressure of the season, but it is also contagious!
So how can we keep our minds and hearts cultivating fruitcake rather than poison?
Well, first of all, we can dwell in and spend time in the Psalms to gain a perspective of just how much God loves us and cares for each of His followers. I would even encourage you to start with Psalm 103, and “forget not all of His benefits!”
We also should set goals each day for how many people we will affirm, whether it be at home (where it should start), at work, in the restaurant at breakfast or lunch. We should even look for ways to give fruitcake to strangers we encounter throughout the day.
The beauty of this kind of “gift giving” is simply this: When you pass this fruitcake on, everyone enjoys it. It is truly a “one-size-fits-all.”
Won’t you give fruitcake this year?
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.