Secret Santa–Bah Humbug

The people I work with decided to have one of those Secret Santa-gift exchanges. We called it Advent Angel. I signed up to be a part of the festivities and picked a name. The idea was to give your person a little gift everyday or so, and to pray for them. The tiny gifts should be small like candy, a card, or something to let your person know that they have a secret santa. On the last day, we were to have a Christmas party and exchange a bigger gift.
Well, as you can guess, I did not get anything. Every morning, I would check my mailbox in the faculty workroom and there would be nothing. Empty. I even seemed to have received less mail the last two weeks too.
I have been part of many Secret Santa’s, but this is first time I did not get anything. More importantly, I did not like what the whole process turned me into. I began expecting things. I began to feel entitled to something, and I was not getting it. It turned me from a free and giving person into a person expecting and wanting his piece of pie. I became non-humble at the worst time of the year.
I honestly believe that it is better to give than receive, but expecting a gift in my mailbox every morning turned the focus on receiving. I let it overshadow any joy I received from giving my gifts to my person. It also drudged up many childhood/teenage memories about old social embarrassments. I felt forgotten and abandoned.
To acerbate the situation, the organizers of the Christmas party scheduled it on the last day of school before break (an exam day) at 7:45 am. (School starts at 9:00.) This time works for nearly everybody in the school except for the four teachers who drive school buses. Three of us would only get to enjoy the last five or ten minutes of the party. (The fourth driver would only miss the first 15 minutes or so.) I asked one of the organizers about this conflict in schedules and her reply blew me off, “Just ask your riders to get there 15 minutes early.” Yeah, right. More feelings of being pushed to the margin. (I do not know why they did not traditionally schedule the party in the evening so that we could bring our spouses.)
So Friday came. I got to school at about my usual time of 8:20. I could catch the last 10 minutes of party, but I really hate being late. What is 10 minutes worth? They had plenty of food, but I was not hungry. I still had a set of exams to grade. I decided not to go to the party. (In hind sight, I should have been a bigger person and gone to the party, but instead I chose to wallow in my hurt.)
By 8:30, I had about a half-dozen students in my classroom. The ironic thing is that none of them were there for any last-minute cramming for an exam because I did not have any exams to give on the last day. About five minutes later, the party organizer who blew me off offered to bring me some food. I said no thanks. She asked about why I did not go to the party. I replied that I had exams to grade. I could tell that her feelings were a little hurt. That was the last thing I intended. I thought I was only hurting myself for not going.
Later that morning, one of my dearest friends asked about not being at the party. I told him the whole story. He recommended that I go and check under the tree to see if I had a present from my secret santa. I did. Nothing.
There is a lesson in all of this. I am not exactly sure what it is, but there is one. Perhaps it is a lesson in humilty and forgiveness? Or maybe inclusiveness? Feeling left out of a party is nothing big in the grand scheme of things. How many people feel forgotten and pushed to the margin in our society?

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