At the beginning of December, store shelves were brimming with Advent calendars filled with chocolates.
Not for me. I was presented with an “Advent Jar” filled with handwritten messages. Always grateful for a pleasant surprise, the little notes intrigued me. Did they actually represent gifts? Perhaps coupons for nice things? Inspirational quotes? Hey, maybe 24 days of good jokes?
I was wrong. On each tag, there was a message, but it was a message about something nice I should do for someone else. Gee. That took me aback. Where’s the chocolate in that?
The jars were prepared by daughter, Sarah. She’d handed them out to various friends as well as a few family members. We couldn’t help but joke about it. It seemed that even when we can’t see her, she still gives us instructions.
But the funny thing, we all took the bait. On day two, her younger sister showed up at Sarah’s door first thing in the morning with a coffee, “My message today told me to buy a cup of coffee for someone,” she explained, with only a slight smile. As for me, I’ve gone out of my way to compliment someone on their child, and spontaneously hugged someone (well, my husband).
“It’s really a jar of moral obligations” muttered one of Sarah’s friends, but she has kept up the routine every day. The jar sits on her kitchen table and every morning with her husband and two young children, they pull out the message for the day, and then talk about it.
Would I rather chocolate? I’d rather not say. But I have to admit, I kind of like my jar of moral obligations. In fact, some days I’ve actually done what the message asks me to do before pulling it out of the jar (hold the door for someone, smile at a stranger). Makes me think I’m not such a bad person after all.
At other times, the messages make me squirm, but like Sarah’s friend, I do them anyway because they are the right thing to do. And only once have I put the message back in the jar –“Don’t complain for a whole day”–hoping that another day I may feel more generous.
Merry Christmas, and may your jar be filled with chocolate and a few moral obligations!