My hunt for the ugliest sweater taught me the real meaning of Christmas

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It is the lucky who look for costumes at Goodwill.
It is the lucky who look for costumes at Goodwill.
Image: AP Photo/Morry Gash

I don’t tear up often, and never in public but that changed this week. I needed an ugly sweater for a work party, so of course I went to Goodwill. I parked my luxury SUV and went looking for a $4.99 gem than could be mocked by my co-workers. It hit me like a ton a bricks that I was in the secondhand store out of novelty.

Everyone else was shopping there out of need.

After paying, I paused and looked around and was reminded what the holiday season is about. It is not about making fun of tacky clothing at corporate parties. It is about helping real people who are busting their ass every day to put food on the table and clothes on their kids. I told the cashier I wanted to pay for all the families in line behind me.

It didn’t matter that the some of the families after me did not speak English. When we all started to tear up, I knew they understood what I was saying. The parents and their children knew via our unspoken dialogue that I care about them as people. That is what counts. Out of my search for the ugliest sweater, I learned a beautiful lesson about humanity—and the need for its existence.