A Christmas Story

Thank You and A Merry Christmas to You, Dana

 The buzz these days is all about the decline of bricks and mortar stores with retail sales rapidly moving to the internet.

And it may well come to pass that people soon won’t know what it’s like to walk into a store and actually interact with another human being.

What follows is both a Christmas story as well as what to me was a shopping experience I cannot imagine occurring in an all electronic sales world.  Regardless, my recent experience shopping this Christmas at J.C. Penney’s is a memory I’ll take with me forever.

Several months ago my dear wife of 47 years was diagnosed with cancer.  That tragic news changed our lives and things will likely never be the same for us.  One thing that’s changed is I’ve assumed responsibility for all of our shopping needs (at least those we can’t or don’t want to conduct over the internet).

Like most cancer patients who’ve undergone chemotherapy, at this point in her treatment my wife has lost most of her hair and in the plans is a visit to go shopping for a wig after the Holidays.  In the meantime, although she is largely homebound, we do have some Holiday visits with relatives on our calendar.  These will be poignant for obvious reasons and I know my wife has been concerned over her appearance.  Again, like most cancer patients she has lost a lot of weight and dressing for a Holiday party is an unfortunate stressor at an otherwise normally stressful time.

Two days ago, I was out doing food shopping and also had with me a list of presents I was to pick up at various stores along our main shopping venues located on Randall Road in Algonquin, Illinois.

In the back of my mind it occurred to me that in lieu of a wig, I could perhaps pick up some kind of head band which my wife could use to cover herself in the event we were able to spend some time with the relatives.

It so happened I was driving by a shopping area in which a J. C. Penney’s store was located.  Thinking I might find a suitable head band I made my way through the Christmas shopping jammed parking lot and entered the store.

I asked the first salesperson I came across where I might find women’s head bands.  I was given general directions to the Women’s Wear area.

I should mention that like most men, I suppose, I am terrible at shopping for women.  I don’t know sizes, styles, prices, what’s in fashion, what isn’t – pretty much everything men leave to women to know and act on when they go shopping for themselves.

I managed to find the Women’s Wear section and noticed a woman salesperson walking briskly to take care of business somewhere in the store.  In her hand were several outfits on hangers.

I excused myself and asked her where I might find a head band for my wife.  She paused and thought for a moment and I could tell from her response it would definitely take some searching.

On impulse I mentioned to her my wife’s cancer and my desire to get her something to wear on her head while visiting during the Holidays.  I noticed from her J.C Penney’s name tag that her name was Dana.

When I told her that about my wife, something remarkable happened.  She looked at me with a combination of sympathy as well as a surprising look of determination.  She hung the items she was carrying on a passing rack and said, “Oh, I am so sorry to hear that.  You come with me.”

With that she quickly went to a corner in the department and, stopping in front of the items sold there, she looked at me directly and said, “All right now, you need to understand that in cold weather the body loses heat most quickly through the extremities, including hands, feet and head.  With your wife’s hair loss she is first going to need to wear something warm on her head to prevent heat loss.”

With that, she directed my attention to a selection of women’s hats, similar to stocking hats only more stylish and made of a material I could well imagine would keep out the cold.  With her help I picked out a hat I thought my wife would like.

Next, she told me, “And I would suggest that you buy your wife a scarf, one she can use as both a covering and a fashion accessory.”  She explained that such a scarf could be arranged in such a way as to look nice while serving as a covering and that the internet would provide information on different ways of arranging it.

I picked out a scarf I thought would look nice and Dana told me she liked my choice.

Finally, she explained I should visit a store that sold medical supplies and buy a roll of self adhesive wrapping of one to two inches in width which would be used to provide a foundation for the scarf and hat.  This would not only provide some warmth but would also keep the other items in place.  I assured her I would.

All of the above took somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen minutes, allowing for my fumbling around in the unfamiliar women’s clothing world.

By this time I was totally amazed to find someone like Dana with that much knowledge who would spend that much time on your average Joe Customer during the busiest shopping time of the year. I thanked her over and over, becoming more flustered as I realized I couldn’t really express the true depths of my appreciation.

She gently quieted me and said, “Please, I’m glad to be of help.  My daughter was diagnosed with cancer a while ago and everything I’m telling you we learned through her experience.  Fortunately, we were able to save my daughter and I wish you the best in your wife’s outcome.”

By this time I was nearly in tears but Dana wasn’t through helping yet.

“Come with me,” she said again and led me over to a check out register which wasn’t currently in service.  She produced a key and proceeded to begin checking me out.  In the midst of this she asked if I’d been given a coupon when I entered the store and I told her I hadn’t.

She directed me to where the coupons were being distributed and I returned with it in hand.

Upon finalizing checkout I discovered the coupon was for 50% off of items purchased.

When all was done I once again expressed my sincere thanks for all of her help.  We exchanged Holiday wishes and shook hands.

As I drove home (or more accurately to a drug store to get the self adhesive tape wrap) I found myself stunned at the kindness, understanding, and willingness to help an old man as exhibited by Dana.  Thoughts of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, O.Henry’s famous Christmas tale and others came to mind and I wondered what it was that led me to make that unscheduled stop and to find such a wonderful and giving person in Dana.

And so I hope Dana and her family have a wonderful Holiday Season. And I’ll say a special prayer for her.

And I also will thank God that J.C. Penney placed those bricks and mortar in that shopping mall and placed Dana there at exactly in my time of need.



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1 Response to A Christmas Story

  1. Kevin J Ramon says:

    Wow, what a Christmas Story!! Thank God for people like Dana.. The story is amazing Steve. You did a wonderful job of putting it into words…..


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