We live in a world of magic.
Not the card tricks or illusionist kind. Real, honest to goodness magic.
Thing is, most folks simply don't see it.
Earlier this week, I was participating in one of my family's most popular Christmas traditions: Last Minute Shopping. It's a maddening event that we always swear we'll avoid Next Year. Then Next Year arrives and we all realize there's just one more thing out there that we want to get for that special someone.
Or that awkward someone.
I don't know why we do this. We've said time and again that we want to keep the number of presents to a minimum. Everyone agrees that we have way too much stuff in our lives. Little trinkets that fill up bookshelves and wind up in boxes when we move*. Yet every year we get caught up in showing each other the material representation of our love for one another.
Which is fine, really. But we always, always wind up at The Mall the week of Christmas.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you want to ever want to test your patience to its limits, look no further.
My in-laws live in a place where The Mall is on the corner of what they lovingly refer to as "Malfunction Junction". In addition to The Mall, there are a handful high-demand stores that share its footprint. What's worse, the timing of stoplights is awful which causes a horrific chain-reaction with the traffic. We avoid this bulls eye of terror at all costs, often adding 10 minutes to our drive just to bypass Malfunction Junction.
Unless, of course, we're Last Minute Shopping.
To say the least, by the time I got to The Mall, my nerves were frayed. Then I attempted to park, which rubbed lemon juice into the wound. Frustrated, I stomped inside.
And into the crowds.
Individually, I don't mind traffic, parking, or crowds. Combined, however, it's a cornucopia of hate and discontent. By the time I found The Thing for my wife, I was fuming. I paid for the trinket, barely acknowledging those around me. As I turned to leave, the cashier offered me a genuine smile and wished me a very Merry Christmas.
Instantly, my attitude shifted 180 degrees. The frustration dissipated and all the tension that had built up in my shoulders simply bled out. I smiled back and wished her the same. Lo and behold, the crowds, parking lot, and traffic to get home didn't bother me as before.
It was like a spell had been cast or a curse lifted from me.
It was almost like magic.
The funny thing about it is that I, and many of us on this blog, write about fantastical ideas. We have magical main characters or our worlds are governed by a set of magical rules. But no matter how real those people or their universes are to us, they are all still fiction. Ideas we dream up and put onto paper, many times because those are concepts we wish existed in the real world.
And yet, that magic does exist. We just have to know where to look.
There's something special about this time of year, something about the way people treat one another that is truly remarkable and completely undefinable. The way we view each other and the world in general shifts to something more understanding. More tolerant.
Not everyone celebrates Christmas, but every culture, religion, and belief systems seems to have something similar. A period of time when the masses stop what they're doing to reflect on the human side of humanity. They pause to consider each other, forcing themselves to think beyond themselves.
What's magical about that is how drastic the effect is on those around us. The world is a noisy, messy place at times. Watching the news, it's easy to get lost in the abyss of despair with nations warring, murder rampant, and economies fluctuating from wealth to poverty almost overnight. And yet a simple smile from a stranger and a heart-felt wish of goodness wipes that away. In its place is a feeling that maybe, just maybe, things aren't as bad as we think. Or, even if they are, there's hope for this species.
For me and my family, Christmas is that time of year when, despite the demand to buy, buy, buy, we pause to really tell folks how much we love and appreciate them. We slow down, we look outwards, and we make a concerted effort to share heartfelt greetings with strangers because it can have a drastic impact on their attitude. Having been on the receiving end of this, I can attest to the power of that force. To the spell that is cast when we allow ourselves to believe in it. To have faith in one another. To reach out and share a little piece of ourselves with someone we love or someone we just met.
We live in a world of magic, folks. We just have to be willing to see it.
And to share it.
So here's wishing you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a very blessed, peaceful calendar's end to you and yours. May you be the source of magic in someone else's life this coming year.
Joshua Roots is a car collector, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.
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*It's especially annoying when you move twice in two months earlier this year. Uh, hypothetically....