I had an experience early in my high school career that began to open my eyes about how other people see the world. As a freshman, I wanted to fit in. And somehow I seemed to gather all the weirdos around me. I didn’t want to be one of them. But one of them, one of the weirdos I met, made a profound impact upon me. She taught me that Christmas is more than the sights.
The New Girl
My homeroom teacher assigned me to show the new girl around. This new student stood out from everyone else. It embarrassed me for her. But she was blind. She couldn’t see that her messy hair or her mismatched clothes or that her eyes moved two different directions. She carried a cane and only needed a ‘guide’ for a few days. I escorted her through the push and shove of teens rushing through the halls until she’d memorized the way to her next class.
Selfish & Embarrassed
I was a selfish sixteen-year-old. It never occurred to me to wonder how she felt being in a new school. Not being able to see. Relying on total strangers to help her. But in the few days we walked to class together, I began to wake up to the fact that she was a nice girl. Like me, she was trying to find her place in the school and the world. But she was a weirdo. But we didn’t have much in common and embarrassment at her appearance still ruled me. So when she’d memorized her way, I stopped walking with her to her next class.
When Christmas rolled around, the class did a gift exchange. We drew names from a bowl and were to buy a small gift for that person. The gift exchange happened during the Christmas party. (We weren’t enlightened enough to call it a holiday or winter party.)
You guessed it. I drew the blind girl’s name. I went into a tailspin. What the heck do you buy for someone who can’t see? Music? I didn’t know her well enough to know if she had a record player. And I had no clue what kind of music she might enjoy. So after browsing through records, I gave up on that idea.
A Shopping Nightmare
Drifting through the department store I rejected idea after idea—because she was blind and she couldn’t enjoy the item. And I became annoyed. Shopping for the blind girl had become a chore.
Then I passed the perfume counter. That was it! She could smell. And every girl I knew liked perfume. So I sampled perfumes. I found a scent that was pleasant and the cost was within the limits imposed by the school. It was a tiny bottle. A pretty bottle in a pretty package. That part would be wasted on her, but at least she’d enjoy the smell.
Christmas Is More Than The Sights
The day of the exchange, I watched her fingers find the folds of the wrapping paper and delicately unwrap the gift. She opened the box and pulled the bottle out. “Oh!” Her excited exclamation made me smile.
Her fingers traced every edge of the bottle. “What a beautiful bottle!”
“It’s perfume,” I said helpfully.
“I know,” she said, smiling. She opened it and sniffed. “It smells good. But this bottle…” Her fingers ran over the diamond-shaped edges again and again. “Such a wonderful shape! Thank you!” Sheer delight radiated from her. And I stood, gape-mouthed, and watched. Stunned at how blind I, the sighted person, had been. She had a whole different world at her fingertips. A world that delighted her with its shapes and textures. A world that I had not seen or felt.
I will always be indebted to that girl. Every Christmas since that time, I remember that girl. She taught me that Christmas is more than sights. It’s more than the sentiments and the music and the gifts I received. She taught me to look deeper, that lighting up a person with delight is the best Christmas gift of all.