My bride and I went out on the town this evening. In the middle of this pandemic, we were out completing our Christmas shopping for the season.
Now don’t misunderstand – everywhere we went we wore masks and maintained proper social distancing. We were very conscious of making sure that the places we went and the people with whom we came in contact were also practicing safety in our dealings with them.
One of the main reasons I do not mind going with her to go shopping is simply because I am a people-lover and a people-watcher. It is exciting for me to watch people go through their normal paces of “living life.”
I love to, without judgment, observe how parents deal with their children in public, or how wives treat their husbands while standing in line at the checkout lane. I love to observe the ways that customers deal with the individuals who are trying to help them solve their problems for little more than the minimum wage.
Most of the time, when my wife asks me to accompany her, I am willing to go. But during this time of the year, between the vacation times of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I really do not 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!
Well, 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 at this time when she was looking for that gift that she could give. Almost always my mother found that she could give one gift that seemed to fit – 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, that nobody liked it and 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. No, 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 in The Message: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.”
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 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.