It was six o’clock at the mall, and Tyree was as exhausted as an elf on Christmas Eve. In fact, he was actually an elf and it was Christmas Eve. He’d been working two jobs to help his parents with his school tuition and to make a little extra holiday money. His second job was as an elf for Santa to help with kids’ photos. Between his two jobs, he’d worked twelve hours straight the day before; on Christmas Eve, things were so busy that he hadn’t even had a break all day. But this was it – only minutes more, and he’d have survived.
Tyree looked over at Shelly, their manager, and she gave him an encouraging smile. She was the reason Tyree had made it through. His job had changed from stress-filled to challenging. Instead of yelling at her workers to keep them in line, Shelly encouraged them, stood behind them, and made them pull together as a team. Especially when things were tough, she always had a smile and an encouraging word. Under her leadership, they’d achieved the highest number of mall photo sales in California.
It was also a difficult holiday season for Sally – she’d recently suffered a miscarriage. Tyree hoped she knew how great she was and what a difference she’d made to all her workers, and to all the little children who’d come to have their pictures taken.
Their booth was open until seven; things started to slow down at six and Tyree finally took a break. Although he didn’t have much money, he really wanted to buy a little gift for Shelly so that she’d know they appreciated her. He looked around and found that all the stores had closed, except Nordstrom. Fearful that they would also close at any moment, Tyree hurried inside and followed the signs toward the Gift Gallery.
As he rushed through the store, Tyree began to feel very conspicuous. It seemed the other shoppers were all very well-dressed and wealthy – and here he was a broke teenager in an elf costume. “How could I even think I’d find something in such a posh store for under fifteen dollars?”
Tyree self-consciously jingled his way into the Gift Gallery. A lady sales associate came over and asked if she could help him. As she did, everyone in the department turned and stared. As quietly as possible, Tyree said, “No, that’s okay. Just help somebody else.” She looked right at him and smiled. “No,” she said. “I want to help you.”
Tyree told the lady who he was buying for and why, then he sheepishly admitted he only had fifteen dollars to spend. But she looked as pleased and thoughtful. By now, the department had emptied, but she carefully went around, selecting a few things that would make a nice basket. The total came to $14.09.
The store was closing; as she rang up the purchase, the lights were turned off. Tyree was thinking that if he could take the gifts home and wrap them. He could make them really pretty but he didn’t have time.
As if reading his mind, the saleslady asked, “Do you need this wrapped?”
“Yes,” Tyree said. By now the store was closed. Over the intercom, a voice asked if there were still customers in the store. Tyree knew this lady was probably as eager to get home on Christmas Eve as everybody else, and here she was stuck waiting on some kid with a measly purchase. But she was gone in the back room a long time. When she returned, she brought out a beautiful basket. It was all wrapped up in silver and gold. Tyree couldn’t believe it.
When he thanked her, she said, “You elves are out in the mall spreading joy to so many people, I just wanted to bring a little joy to you.”
“Merry Christmas, Shelly,” Tyree said back at the booth. Sally gasped when she saw the present; she was so touched and happy that she started crying. Tyree hoped it gave a happy start to her Christmas.
And the story did not end here.
[ To be continued … ]