Dear Friendly Stranger

By Marchel Alverson

Christmas had left a bad taste in my mouth. 

I had lost my job a few months before. Times were hard. The red holiday lights reminded me of warning signs—saying that danger was imminent around every turn. So on that day, I wasn’t in the mood to hear another Christmas carol about “good tidings” or “joy to the world.” I was more concerned about where I would find the money to put gifts under the tree for my two children. I was worried about how one pound of ground beef would feed them for a week.

I had managed to secure a part-time job at a department store in time for the holidays. The work was hard as I was standing for 6-8 hours a day, moving merchandise, and smiling at customers when it was the last thing I felt like doing. Still, I was grateful for the minimum wage I earned. I was also indebted to my coworkers—people I might never have met had I not worked beside them, sharing woes about our aching feet, and sometimes laughing about tales of holiday shoppers.

Still, it’s hard to tell someone you work with that you feared not having enough food to feed your family, and that hours before you stood in line at a food bank, or that the Christmas music playing in the store made you want to cry. So I kept silent and displayed the face of retail bliss. It wasn’t real, until that day. One of my managers pulled me aside and told me someone had dropped a package off for me and I could pick it up on my break. I assumed she had mistaken me for someone else, and I had no idea who would leave something for me.

But there was no mistake when, hours later, she handed me a festive red bag with my name written on the attached notecard. Like an eager child, I pulled apart the tissue paper and peered inside to find it filled with assorted chocolates. I smiled. The first genuine smile for a long time. Then I discovered the handwritten card, and each word I read floored me:

“Xmas 2014

“Dear Friendly Stranger,

“Sometimes in life hard things come and it’s not always easy. Obstacles will always come against us. But I want to encourage you to always keep pressing on, no matter what comes against you. I have hope that this next season of your life will be one filled with life, thrill, and love! Never give up on your passions and live with a purpose.

“We just wanted to spread some Christmas love to an extraordinary person, AND IT’S YOU! We hope that you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas and New Year. “You’re amazing! Know that you are always loved and never forgotten by Jesus. At Christmas and always, never forget … you’re never forgotten.

“God loves you so much.

“THE REST OF YOUR LIFE IS THE BEST OF YOUR LIFE!

“Jeremiah 29:11

“James 1:2”

As I fought back tears, I tried to think of whom it was that could have possibly known my plight? I asked my coworkers if anyone had seen who had left the package for me. No one knew and I never did discover the two people who had signed only their first names at the bottom of the card. I can assume that they were customers who had come through my line at one time or another. I’ll never know.

What I do know is their kindness astounded me. I know they forever changed my outlook of Christmastime. Their kind words and encouragement brightened my dark season, and made me instinctively realize that I could face the challenges ahead.

I also know now that the spirit of Christmas people sing about in song lyrics and glorify in movies exists. Although that season in my life has passed, I will store that humbleness in time for the next storm. 

This Christmas, I plan to pay it forward. I want to bring their message of hope and love to someone else. One card might change a life. It changed mine.