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This blog post comes from my mom, Joanne Kelleher, as she recalls a #christmasmiracle from 30 years ago. It’s a great read, especially this time of year. Enjoy.

Gratitude is currently enjoying its day in the sun. Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines are sprinkled with #gratefuls and #gratitudes, and the happiness experts advise you to keep a gratitude journal if you want to live a happier life. This particular happiness hack is not new, it’s just become popular to publicly proclaim your gratitude. Most of us have always carried with us moments of grace that we call to mind for a burst of joy, or comfort, or encouragement, and they have been inspiring gratitude in us before there were hashtags to label them. As Christmas approaches, I remember back to such a moment that redeemed a difficult holiday season thirty years ago.

My little boy Bobby was three and he and I were living with my twin brothers in their 2-bedroom apartment in Bayside, Queens. My husband and I had separated, and my brothers had been kind enough to take us in until I could save up some money to rent an apartment. They were two single guys in their mid-20’s, not used to having an active little kid around, so I tried to keep Bobby quiet and out of their way when they were home so as not to wear out our welcome. Usually, we slept in the living room, but sometimes one of my brothers stayed at his girlfriend’s apartment, and on those nights we got to sleep in his bed.  That was always a treat, especially if it was a Thursday night and I could catch up with Knot’s Landing on the television in his room.

During that time, I worked in a warehouse answering phones for a company that rented out televisions and VCRs on a monthly basis. It was my job to let customers know the window for their delivery, pick-up, or service call. I also handled customer complaints, which could be pretty frequent because when stock was low, they rented out equipment that was not up to the usual standard. It wasn’t a great job, but it provided a small income while I tried to get my life back on track. I had become friendly with the other girl who worked there and we were planning to rent an apartment together.

Aside from the everyday stress of trying to get my life together, the added expectations and expense of the holidays were weighing on my mind. I had a few items on lay-away for Bobby, but there were always holiday-related purchases to make and errands to run. With the Christmas countdown accelerating, I decided to squeeze in a lunchtime dash to my go-to neighborhood for bargain shopping. I knew that parking wouldn’t be easy in that congested area, especially at this time of year, but I had to get my shopping done. As I reached the heart of the shopping center, I saw a prime parking spot right on the main street. What a lucky break! I pulled up in front of it preparing to back into it, but before I could back up, a car snuck up behind me and pulled into the spot front first. What?! Are you kidding, guy!? I flung the car door open and stormed back to address the other driver – That is MY spot!  He said, “I’m not moving.”

That was pretty much the end of the conversation and the end of my reserves. It wasn’t just the fact that he wasn’t moving, but the way that he dismissed me, like I wasn’t even worth the argument, that deflated me. I couldn’t muster up more yelling but I couldn’t move either. I stood there frozen in place, hand on hip, the recent months of failure and worry flooding through me and pooling at my eyes in tears that threatened to spill over. Suddenly, I heard a voice from somewhere above my right shoulder. I looked up from the spot-stealer to see a police officer sitting on a horse.

Officer: What’s the problem?

Me: He took my spot.

Officer (to spot-stealer): Get out of the spot.

As simple as that.

All of this had taken place under the el (the elevated train tracks), which obscured the midday sun, but a few blocks beyond us, the el ended and the sun shone brightly. When I looked up at the officer to thank him, he was backlit by sunlight; it looked as though he was glowing. And just then, it began to snow – flurries, the kind that swirl around you like the last flakes settling in a snow globe. The only thing missing was a choir of angels singing. I stood transfixed in the magic of it all, then headed back to my car to claim my parking spot.

I have never forgotten that moment.

On the day of the hero police officer, I couldn’t know that things would get worse before they got better, that my father would die alone in his apartment on Christmas Day, or that the friend who had agreed to rent an apartment with me would back out and leave me with a rent that I couldn’t cover. On that day I only knew that for the first time in a long time, I felt hopeful. It was my own tiny Christmas miracle.

Moments of grace don’t always appear as a literal knight in shining armor riding in on a horse illuminated by rays of sunlight in a swirl of gently falling snow, serving justice. Yes, sometimes these moments are huge, like getting the call that your son is in the clear after a months-long medical scare he’d been dealing with. But there’s also grace to be found in the things that we take for granted – having enough to eat, a roof over our heads, our friends and family, even just a quiet moment with your cats purring on your lap.

Catch these moments when you can, and savor them.

Merry Christmas!

#gratitude #grateful

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