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I think tonight I found some Magi.

It was 6:00, and for no particular reason I decided that we needed to drive around and look at Christmas lights.

Never mind that no one wanted to go—there’s nothing like being forced to look at Christmas lights to cheer you up.

In typical fashion, the kids got over their frustration quicker than I did. They began singing Christmas carols five minutes into the drive. Me? I decided that the cheerful singing only made me grumpier. Sure, “Silent Night” is great, but what about those lights?!

Thankfully for everyone, I could only keep up my Grinch impression for so long. Generally speaking, little children singing carols and reenacting “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will eventually break down any hard-hearted wall you put up. On the way home we headed to McDonald’s for some ice cream, and I somehow managed to confuse the drive-through person into giving us an extra sundae.

While I had already learned some lessons by this point about pride and stubbornness, my education was just beginning.

Before we got home, we stopped at the drugstore for some cough medicine. As I got out of the car, I discovered some spilled ice cream in the back of the “burb.” Not a big deal, though a minor frustration. Then all my children followed me into the store—just because. So much for “get in, get out.” Sigh.

As I’m looking for Children’s Motrin, cue the one daughter who is learning to read: “Is this it? Is the red one it? Is it blue? I like grape. Hey, strawberry is pretty. . . .”

Then my oldest daughter, Anneke, asks, “Dad, do you have any change?” I give her The Look and continue searching. Finally I find the medicine as daughter number two, who is fighting an addiction to somersaults and handstands, performs for me in the aisle for all to see. Then Anneke again asks for change. I stop and mutter something like, “Wasn’t an ice cream good enough?”

“Dad, I don’t want to buy anything. Didn’t you see the homeless guy out front with the sign?”

Didn’t I see the homeless guy? There was a homeless guy in front of the store? I gulp.

“Yeah, so I thought if you had some change I could give it to him.”

Yup, I was as quiet as you think I should be at that point.

Anneke goes to the car, gets some money, walks up to this guy as Dad nervously observes (but is finally smart enough to stay out of the way). The guy says, “Thank you. God bless you, and Merry Christmas.”

Suddenly I have some “dirt” in my eyes.

When we get home, the two older girls pull out bread, butter, cheese, chocolate, a blanket, a thermos, a pack of granola bars, and some mandarin oranges. I know what’s going on here. I’m not sure what to do. Actually, I am. Once again, I stay out of the way.

Bev, my wife, fills the thermos with hot chocolate. The girls pack up the blanket and food nicely, and I receive instructions to buy the man cigarettes so he doesn’t spend the money we gave him on that. I am getting educated.

On the way back to the drugstore, I ask the girls if they are nervous. (I am, but not sure why—maybe because something is changing before my eyes.) My daughter only says that she really, really hopes he isn’t gone.

He is there. I stay in the car. This is their moment, their idea. When the girls return, one says, “Thanks for taking us to see the Christmas lights, Dad. We wouldn’t have met him if we didn’t go.”

And I didn’t even see him. 

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