I worked for a “photo mill” this holiday season. My job was to take photos of people with Santa. Well, more accurately, my job was to manage the set at the mall where we collectively ‘sold Santa.’
Being a photographer first, I chose to run the camera and let the other staff take care of greeting, running the register, etc. It was a fun experience and I got a bunch of practice posing and pulling smiles out of many nervous and frightened children. But one man made my season on Christmas Eve…
The last week before Christmas sees a mass of people wanting to get photos with Santa. We had wait times approaching three hours on the last few days. Many folks grumbled, but most were pleasant and understanding enough. We had a ticket system in place so we could effectively get our lunch and dinner breaks, but that left folks who were not paying attention at the end of a two hour wait as soon as we came off breaks. One such gentleman thought he could buy his way out of waiting.
As we queued the line after lunch on Christmas Eve, a large man (about 6’5″ and over 300 lbs if he weighed an ounce!) approached the cashier and asked to speak to the manager. I saw him approaching, and he did not look upset, so I waited to see what he would do. The cashier gave me a look and a nod, so I walked over to see what he wanted.
“We just got in to town on a long flight, and we don’t have much time before we need to head out again.” He pulled his hand out of his pocket, flashing $20s. “Is there any way me and my wife could make some arrangement so we don’t have to wait in line?”
I know what you are thinking… The nerve! What a jerk! etc, etc. Well, I wasn’t going to let him buy me off, just so you know. But I had an idea… All season, we (the set workers) had been taking any tips and using them to buy toys for the Toys for Tots box or the Sharing Tree. So my response was: ” Well, I can’t do that, but if you take that money and buy some toys for the Toys for Tots box over there, I can make a deal with you.” He got a big smile on his face and said he would be right back.
Remember, I had a two hour line I was working on at the time, so I dismissed the entire conversation and got busy taking photos. Well, I’ll be darned if 15 minutes later, that guy showed up with a HUGE smile on his face and loaded down (remember, he is a BIG man…) with two big armfuls of toys! He waved at me, and I waved back. He put the toys into the box (over $200 worth, I found out later) and I invited him onto my set. He was next in line…
I don’t know his name, but I won’t forget what he did. Now, you could say that I deserve some credit, and maybe I do, but all I did was create an opportunity for him. He stepped up and made some Christmas Magic! After we took the photos, he didn’t stop smiling. He shook my hand at least two more times before he left, thanking me and going on about doing things for kids in need.
So I guess I extracted some Christmas Spirit that day. I would like to think that anyone with the means would do the same, but maybe we just need to give them an opportunity. I will be looking for more “opportunities” in the new year, and I hope you will join me. Let’s make some ‘Christmas Magic’ every day!