I got to give away an XBox to a nine year old on Tuesday night.
At this particular holiday shindig I ended up, somehow, with intercom in hand shouting out raffle numbers like a regular DJ. “Number 1919241 come get your cooler of Omaha Steaks!” The desk where I did my thing was piled high with some desirable and other less desirable gifts: a membership to the zoo, a Santa shaped cookie jar, Chuckie Cheese tokens. Either way, they were free and it’s Christmas. Everything is special. Some children looped back around my DJ station so frequently I had their numbers memorized. “Sorry 1919257 that was a 4, I called and not a 5.” They would smile, skirting bashfulness, then shuffle away.
This night, one eager beaver waited tirelessly beside me, shameless and excited. His eyes were wide, his smile was big and his face so bright. He reminded me of a lucky penny. “I want that,” he said gesturing to the Xbox. I smiled. “Yeah,” I said to him, “That would be great.” Lucky penny let his grin go for a moment to furrow his brow. He poked me. “No. I really want that, Miss.” I looked at him. Clearly, Lucky wasn’t pleased. My feet hurt.I had seen seven clients that day and in that last session, the amount of talking that went on may have been at odds with the amount of coughing. Eeegh.
Still, I felt bad about my glazed-over comment. “Sorry,” I said as best I could. I tried for a do-over: “Do you want to be the time-keeper?” He nodded (with vigor). Then: “You don’t have a watch on, Miss.” He tapped my wrist, concerned once again. This kid was sharp. I pulled out my cell phone and he nodded, satisfied with my make-shift solution.
Lucky was ready.
I set the timer for fifteen minutes and he watched my cell phone diligently, conscientiously, dramatically even, like he was the time-keeper of the universe. “FIVE MINUTES!” he’d shout-whisper into my ear. That was my cue to pass on the count-down to other lukewarm party-goers: also excited, but not like Lucky. Children left their frosted cookies or their snowflake ornaments at the craft tables and gathered around the Xbox. Lucky had this uncanny sincerity and I was anxious. “How can I rig this thing so he’ll win?” I thought. I chanted his number like a prayer in my head. 1919230. 1919230. 1919230. Please, please, please. How did I end up with this job anyway? I was beginning to resent my DJ microphone and this endearing lucky penny.
The timer went off and Lucky didn’t say a word, he slid me my phone and nodded. I listened to this soft gesture. “Okay everyone, our final gift-giveaway for the night is our grand prize! The next number that I call out will be the winner of the XBbox!”
“Yaaaa!!!” The crowd cheered.
Everyone wanted it, but not the way Lucky did. I knew this and was taking it to heart. I shook the raffle tickets in the tin and heard them bat around for a bit- I pictured 1919230 flying to the top just in time for my fingers to grab it and…”the winner is…19192..1..8!” I’m sure my voice cracked. I was so sad. Lucky didn’t get it. Everyone was quiet, looking at their numbers, looking up at me, then looking around. Who is the winner? The crowd was on edge. There was no answer, until…
It was Lucky. He jumped from his post beside me, dashed through the crowd, and grabbed a dark haired bundled up little boy. He pried open the toddler’s grip, grabbed the clammy ticket and brought it to my comparably sweaty hands. He didn’t skip a beat. “218,” he said huffing, “Here, miss.” Sure enough. Lucky’s brother, Poppy, had won him the Xbox and Lucky’s eyes danced.
Proudly, I handed the box to him, as if I had anything to do with it. Poppy came toddling to the front, quite uncertain about what he had done and quite sure that he liked the wild glee. Lucky kissed his little brother’s face. “Poppy, poppy, poppy…” Lucky’s family cheered and the moment they stopped, Poppy began again so everyone else might echo his baby shriek. They did. And then there was glee again. I didn’t understand what they were saying, they spoke a different language than me but it was no matter. When things are this deep and this full there are no barriers, everyone is included.
Lucky looked at me and then looked at his parents, telling the story of his waiting and watching. He took my hand then, and said, “Thank You.” What do I say back? I followed Lucky’s lead, just like I had the past half hour. “Thank you.” And I squeezed his hand.
If there was anything true about this moment, which I think there was, it wasn’t the XBox, or the raffle, or the luck. It was the unspeakable joy. Preparation and celebration were glued together by grace.
As we also watch and wait, may we remember the promise of Joy. And may we usher it in with wild delight. Like toddlers.
Happy Advent. Merry Christmas. Joy to the World.
Copyright, Kate Daisy. Check it out here.