“Ready?” my sister Donna asked, gathering her presents.
“I am,” Mom answered as she tucked the receipt for lunch into her wallet.
“Me too.” I reached over the half-full basket of chips and salsa on the table and grabbed my phone.
We had just celebrated my sister’s birthday at a yummy Mexican restaurant in an outdoor mall near her office.
It was a chilly, gray mid-December day, which made the Christmas decorations in front of the restaurant stand out.
“Let’s go to the little shop next door,” I said. “I need another gift for Mart for Christmas.”
Mom and I stepped into the store and started browsing. Donna lingered at the door, looking at something down the street.
“What is it?” I asked when she didn’t come in.
“There’s a guy down there who’s singing. He has a beautiful voice,” she said.
I couldn’t hear anything other than “Holly Jolly Christmas” filling the tiny shop with big sound. In a few minutes, we stepped back outside.
“Is he still singing?” I asked her.
“Yes,” she said and gestured in the direction she’d been looking.
In front of the chocolate store stood a young guy, slowly strumming a guitar and looking down at the music on the bistro table in front of him. He was alone, yet busy lunch-hour shoppers whisked by him and cars zipped in and out of parking spots in front of him. Cheery carols blasting on the sound system made it hard to hear his guitar.
He looked a bit rumpled in his navy-blue chocolatier apron and warm, brown jacket. He also seemed very uncomfortable, looking down at the music and only occasionally raising his head.
Was he just learning to play? Was he insecure about his ability? Or was he just embarrassed to be singing in this environment? I felt a little sorry for him.
And then he opened his mouth to sing.
And the most beautiful sound came out: a rich baritone with occasional high notes. His voice touched each note and filled it up before moving on to the next. He sounded like Josh Groban.
We were amazed.
I went into the chocolatier and told the managers that he was really good. I had to; I was so excited.
The three of us slipped some money onto his table. “Beautiful!” I said, smiling. He glanced up briefly to smile, too, before looking down at the music again.
On a cold, overcast day, in the rush of the holiday season, a gorgeous melodic gift filled the air with unexpected beauty. And the song?
“Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name
“Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born”
His voice combined with those beloved centuries-old words about Christ made me pause and listen. My eyes filled with tears, and my heart “praised His holy name” in the parking lot.
May you, too, be amazed by a moment of unexpected beauty this holiday season. Merry Christmas, my friends.
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Photo of ornament courtesy of Marcus Spiske | Unsplash.com