Sparkling Christmas Matters 4: The smallest gift

23p – A true story

Scene: Morrisons car park, Tuesday, 1 pm

A woman parks up and gets ready to go in.  She hasn’t been to this particular Morrisons for several years.  She notices there are three charity shops around the car park.  The woman checks the boot of the car to see if it is still full of stuff from the last clear out – it is.  After getting the food she needs she goes back to the car and heaves out the bags from the boot, and heads over to Barnados, where she sees a man pacing around outside. 

Man: (In his 60s, clutching a scrunched-up blue carrier bag):  Excuse me miss, can I ask a huge favour? …Oh, are you going in here?  Let me get the door for you and I’ll wait outside.

Woman: Yes, OK, I’ll talk to you in a minute. (Waddles into the charity shop with two huge bags of donations. Heading back out of the shop, the man is waiting, wringing his hands.) Are you OK?

Man: “I’m so sorry to have to ask but can I trouble you for 23p?  I need to get a loaf of bread.  The cheapest one is 23p.  You can get it yourself if you want, I wouldn’t normally ask, it’s just…

Woman: Oh, of course, let me just look… I don’t think I’ve got any change… I’ve only got 15p.  I’ll go and get you one. Do you have anything to go with it? Do you want some beans?

Man: I’ve got beans. I was just coming out for bread…

Woman: Oh OK, what about cheese, do you like cheese?  Do you have butter? I’ll just get you a few things.

They walk over to the supermarket and the man tells her a bit about his struggles and that his mother has recently passed away.  Then he waits outside and the woman heads into the shop, picking out sensible food and a bag of clementines and a box of mince pies, and definitely not the cheapest loaf of bread, she is adamant that it won’t be the cheapest one.

Cashier: Do you want a carrier?

Woman: Yes please. (Quickly fills the bag)

Cashier: That’s £7.22, please.

Woman: Thanks. (Taps a credit card, fighting back tears at how little the bag of shopping costs compared to the bag she had bought minutes earlier.)

Man: (Seeing the woman come out with a bag of food) Oh thank you!  I’m really sorry about this.  I would hug you but it’s Covid. What’s your name?

They exchange names and wave each other off. Then the woman goes back to the car smiling that it had been so easy to help and crying at Gary’s situation and his embarrassment at having to ask for 23p.

There are thousands more true stories like this one playing out all over the country today:

  • The child jumping for joy at the sight of a four-pack of toilet rolls in a hamper on their doorstep.
  • The teenager finally sleeping peacefully because the teacher stayed late to sort out the bullying.
  • The father smiling at the mechanic as he drops off a refurbished bike to enable the teenage son to get a job.
  • The mother breathing a sigh of relief when the motorway services worker chases their car waving a dropped teddy.
  • The woman blessed by the student who bought the last five items on the conveyor belt for her after the student overheard her asking the cashier to stop when she reached £20.

Sometimes a sparkling Christmas emerges from the smallest gift. But isn’t it incredible that we are designed to feel such deep joy through helping others?  Giving makes us grateful, happy, and connected. It helps us listen better to others. Giving makes God happy: ‘God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT)

35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:34-35 NIV)

I’m pretty sure the woman in the first story was impacted more significantly than the man.  The opportunity to bless him with 23p is still making her cry the next day.

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