The Bright Side: Two pennies

Published 2:56 pm Thursday, December 14, 2023

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I’ve always equated the holiday season to cheerfulness and generosity. You have to admit, it’s hard to be in a bad mood at the grocery store while Michael Bublé serenades us with his version of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas.” But the truth is, we don’t all carry around free smiles this time of year, and some of us don’t have a lot, if anything, to give. The holidays are joyous for some, heart-wrenching for others, and busy for all of us. That’s why I’ve come to find just how important it is to be kind this time of year, and make sure we bring an extra dose of compassion wherever we go.

In working on our annual holiday gift guide, I’ve met up with several small business owners so far. Most have been working on Christmas promos since the end of summer, and are now doing their best to push through in a rather tight season here on the Outer Banks. One of these people in particular is the reason I felt the need to write this column. She’s been advertising in our gift guide for a long time, but this year she admitted she can’t. The past six weeks did not go as planned, she explained, and that comes at a cost. It’s a story I’m sure many are familiar with. It’s hard to start a business. I’d argue that it’s even harder to keep a business going.

The day before Thanksgiving I found myself at one of our local nail salons. I planned it so I would get to the salon at an off hour, hoping for a quick appointment. I still had a pie to bake and bread to make and packing to do before my husband and I left to stay with my parents for the long weekend. “Maybe 30 minutes?” was not the response I had hoped for while I stood at the front desk. But I sat down anyway and scrolled Facebook for a few minutes before the owner motioned me to a seat. Her middle school-aged daughter was there reading. She looked up at me and asked what I was getting done, and I asked her if she was excited for Thanksgiving. “I guess, we’ll probably be here,” she said saddened. I thought about how I was going to have time away from work to spend with my family and enjoy laughs and stuffing and bonfires, and here was this little girl who was more than likely going to be sitting the same seat she was, reading while her parents were working. No turkey, no board games, no quality time away from work.

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Before leaving the appointment, the little girl said “card or cash?” “Cash,” I replied. She went to ask her mom how much it was going to be, but before she could return I had left double the cost in cash on her seat. I had wanted to save half my cash to perhaps purchase lunch during our drive the next day, or for an upcoming shopping trip, or to feed my coffee addiction, but I decided the best use of what I had to give was for that family.

In the Gospel of Luke, Luke 21:1-4, we learn about rich people who drop offerings in a collection plate, followed by a widow who put in just two pennies. Christ tells us that the widow’s offering is the greatest of all, for she gave everything she had.

I’m not saying we necessarily have to give others everything we have this season. Not all of us can afford to give anything monetarily, but there is one thing we all have and can give freely: grace. Because there are many, many of our neighbors that are doing their best with what they have. We may cross paths with someone who lost their father right before Christmas and is having a hard time coping with the cooler weather. We could run into a business owner who just couldn’t make ends meet this year. We may have to wait in longer lines, and deal with bad attitudes, and try not to let the stress of buying Christmas presents for all of our nieces and nephews get the best of us. We will have to have grace, for others and ourselves, this holiday season. So, when you grab your keys, hat and purse before heading out the door, don’t forget to pack your compassion, take a few extra breaths, and maybe a penny or two for the road.

Danielle Puleo is a staff writer for The Coastland Times. Reach her at