At the United Way’s Bright Ideas Conference for nonprofit leaders, keynote speaker Paul Vitale shared a story from when he was a young businessman in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Every morning for a long time, the man never lifted his gaze or acknowledged Paul in any way.
One day, the receptionist called Paul’s office and said that he had someone waiting to see him. Paul walked down to the lobby to see the man from the bus stop.
“Hi, Paul,” he said.
Paul wondered how the man knew his name, and wondered what was in the box he was holding.
“Is there somewhere we can talk?” the man asked.
Paul ushered the man to the conference room where the two sat across the table from each other.
“I have to admit, I was a little nervous,” Paul said as he recalled the story. He didn’t know how stable the man was or if what was in the box might be something he didn’t want to see.
The man sat quietly for a few minutes.
“I stopped someone one day and asked them what your name was.”
“Oh. What’s in the box?” Paul asked.
“It’s a Christmas present for you, Paul,” the man said. “You know, I’ve been standing at that bus station for years, and you’re the only one who’s ever said ‘Hello’ to me. So I wanted to get you a Christmas present.”
The man got up and walked out, leaving Paul with the box on the table. Paul opened the box and found several CDs of Christmas music.
Of course, the man wasn’t at the bus station the next day, and Paul never saw him again.
“It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten,” Paul said.
That’s one of my favorite things about the holiday season: More than any other time of year, we open our eyes and notice the humanity around us.
Let’s all find a stranger to say “hi” to and listen as God moves us to bless those around us this holiday season.