Beliefnet
Reprinted from Redeeming the Season with permission of Tyndale.

It all started when I read a report just before Christmas listing that year's top-10 toys. The first nine we already had, but Furby was different. Furby could speak two languages (English and Furbish) and had a vocabulary of 200 words and 800 phrases. He could sing, dance, and even catch a cold-all for the bargain price of $29.95. It was the have-to-have Christmas present of that year, and I just had to have one. My search started by calling every retailer within 50 miles, asking for Furby. Responses ranging from laughs to grumbles always ended the same: "Try after Christmas." My only hope was to catch an area store just as it received a shipment. So I went from one store to another, day after day, only to be told, "We won't get any more before Christmas." Discouraged, I came to the last store. "You probably don't," I said to the clerk, pessimism oozing with every word, "but do you have Furby?" "This is your lucky day," said the cashier. "We're expecting a shipment this afternoon." She handed me one of the five remaining claim tickets. All I had to do was come back that evening with the ticket and Furby was mine. I couldn't believe my search was almost at an end. Twenty stores and two weeks of searching were finally going to pay off. Hours later, I presented my ticket to the clerk. "I'm here to pick up Furby," I announced. "Oh...well..." she said anxiously with that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. "It seems that box is missing. I mean, it could be in the back of the truck. We're just not sure. What I mean, is...I don't have your Furby." She backed up a few steps in anticipation of my reply. Her nervousness seemed a little odd, but I pressed on. "Will they be unloading the truck tonight?" She nodded, but said she didn't know if the was box was actually there. "That's okay," I told her. "If not, I'll try back another day." Relief registered on her face. "Thank goodness." She shuddered. "I've been yelled at by several people in the last half hour because they have a claim ticket and I don't have their Furby." Finally, I understood all the fearful and anxious faces I'd been seeing behind the counters. Day after day, clerks had been confronted by joyless, frustrated shoppers angered by inconveniences. On that day, I was thankful I had not been one of them. But what about the day before? I could vividly recall my frustration at having to wait in long lines, my curtness because I was running late, and my less-than-pleasant demeanor after a long day of shopping. With every purchase I made, I was at best indifferent, at worst...well, I'm sure you have your own stories. Suffice it to say, I had missed many opportunities to be a light in someone else's dark day.
That episode prompted our family's Gift-with-Purchase program. At the beginning of the holiday we fill a basket with ornaments that we have made on a family night. Everything in the basket is representative of some part of the Christmas story. We make angels, stars of Bethlehem, and crowns. On each one we attach a Bible verse that conveys the true meaning of Christmas. From Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, we keep this basket of ornaments in the car. Whenever we go into a store, a restaurant, or even the dry cleaners, we take one of these ornaments to give to the person who assists us. We have found that giving a gift with purchase does two things. First, it helps keep us accountable for our attitudes around others. We can't very well gripe someone out for giving us the wrong change then offer him or her a spiritually significant gift. Even greater, though, is what happens in the attitude of the people who receive it. In a small way it says that they are valuable, what they do is important, and they are appreciated. We will never know what effect the Word of God has in the life each stranger as he or she reads the verse attached to the ornament, but we are happy to leave that responsibility with God. For our part, the blessing comes back when a smile crosses the face of someone who received our Gift with Purchase.

By the way, I eventually did secure a Furby. When my son opened it Christmas Eve, He took one look and said, "What is it?" Apparently, he had not read the top-10 list.

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