When our editor traveled to western Loudoun County on Christmas Day, he expected the highlight of his visit was to be the delicious goose and fixins prepared by good friends, and the warm and stimulating conversation he always has with them.
As pleasant as all that was, however, the most memorable part of his trip happened when he pulled out of their driveway and discovered he needed to buy some gas to make it home.
A nearby automatic gas station beckoned, and he pulled in. As the sky darkened, less than an inch of snow was on the ground, but enough to blanket the entire countryside with a very seasonal look.
Negotiating the instructions on the gas pump, our editor didn’t notice when another vehicle pulled up on its other side. “Merry Christmas,” he heard from a voice over there as someone came out of a van to also work the pump’s instructions.
Our hero replied in like kind, and then when the pump’s nozzle was in place to fuel his car, he looked to see who’d spoken to him. It was a heavy-set African-American man in his 30s. Peering to see the lettering on the van the man drove, he saw it was a AAA vehicle, the kind that shows up to assist drivers with dead batteries, flat tires and such.
“Well, you must be playing Santa Claus for a lot of people today,” he said, and there was an exchange about some of the routine predicaments the man helped folks with that day.
“Yep, that’s what my daughter says,” he then added. “I am driving around helping people all day. So she says I should be called Santa Claus!”
“That’s very nice. Did you get to spend some of the day with her?”
“Yes, I was with her and her sister this morning. And this is my last stop for the day, so I’ll be able to get home to be with them tonight, as well.”
“Well, that’s very beautiful. Merry Christmas to you, sir!”
The AAA man replied the same, and extended his big, gloved hand for a hearty shake.
That was all there was to it.
This did not happen on line, this did not involve exchanging Facebook information, this involved total strangers in, for at least one, an unfamiliar place. Such brief encounters happen all the time, and normally one would not think twice about them.
But in this case, given the special day and context, it seemed to represent something more. The human connection was real and sincere, and the warmth contained in the simple information exchanged was uplifting and memorable.
In the course of a life, sometimes it is surprising the thoughts and memories that keep coming back to one’s mind, even as brief snippets of wider events. This holiday season provided one, even more impressive than the sight of a perfectly cooked goose or unbelievably tasty soup.