Shopping For An Ugly Christmas Sweater

Photo taken by Hon Kim

Most mornings at 6 am I am just finishing off my first cup of coffee. Mornings are my sanctuary. I make every attempt to avoid any and all sources of light and noise. It is my time to mentally and physically prepare for the day.

So when it was decided that I would be the one making the trip to Walmart to find my four-year old son an Ugly Christmas Sweater, I was less than thrilled. I couldn’t have imagined anything I would have rather do less at that moment. But, I also did not want to imagine my son crying because he was the only in his class that wasn’t wearing an Ugly Christmas Sweater.

Luckily we live in a small town and my drive took less than fifteen minutes. My plan was to get in and out as quickly as possible. I was relatively successful. For the first ten minutes I wandered around hoping I could do this on my own.

Then the caffeine kicked in and I had my first rational thought of the day. I asked for help. I was directed towards a small section that appeared as if it had been picked at for weeks. There were no Ugly Christmas Sweaters; but there was an ugly Santa shirt that would just have to suffice.

I made my way to the checkout aisle as quickly as I could. There were only two people ahead of me and both had few items. This was going to be quick! Soon enough I would be in the comfort of my own home.

Then I looked up and noticed that the cashier’s face was red. It appeared as if she had been crying. Actually, she still was. I know because she told us. Feeling the need to explain to those of us in line what was going on. She said that she didn’t have time to cry at home. That was why she was crying now.

Suddenly, the inconvenience of having to drive fifteen minutes in my Volvo SUV to buy my four-year old son an Ugly Christmas Sweater didn’t seem like such a big deal.

It was now my turn to check out.

What could I do? Ask her how she was doing? That was obvious. But I asked anyway. It felt like the polite thing to do.

At that moment I decided that the one thing I could do was try to make her smile. So, as she was scanning my son’s little Santa shirt, I asked her if she thought it would fit me. She glanced up at me and let out a small laugh. It was genuine and I could tell that she appreciated the gesture.

I don’t know her story and most likely never will. But I know mine. And it is nothing short of a fairy tale. Yet, for a brief moment I allowed myself to forget.

Somehow I managed to catch every light on the way home. I had been gone less than an hour. My children were still asleep and my house was still warm. Most likely the cashier at Walmart was still working her shift when my son first saw his shirt.

I hope he likes it.

More than anything though, I hope she laughs again today.


  1. Wait….you’re writing a book? Tell me more!

    And regarding your post….it was a great reminder for all of us to remember how blessed we are. Merry Christmas, Jon!

  2. Jon, thank you for the reminder that we must practice gratitude intentionally. If we don’t, it can slip away, diluted by the inconveniences and our own ego. I appreciate your candidness… you have the uncanny ability to make us, the readers, feel as though we are side-by-side with you on your journey. For that, I am grateful. Your empathy is contagious!

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