I was walking through Reata last Saturday in downtown Fort Worth after dinner with good friends when I was surprised by two simple words: "Merry Christmas."
The restaurant was virtually empty on a weekend that should have been packed with Christmas revelers and holiday cheer.
But a massive ice storm kept people at bay and only a few waitstaff were on hand to serve the few stragglers who made it to the restaurant.
Just outside the front door, an ambulance tended to an elderly man who had slipped and fallen on the street. The passers-by who were out and about had covered him with a blanket and waited while help arrived.
Aside from the festive lights that twinkled in downtown Fort Worth, there was plenty to be aggravated about. It was cold and messy and the storm was costing restaurants like Reata and its employees plenty of money in lost sales.
On a selfish note, I was stranded in Fort Worth and not accomplishing anything I had set out to do. The shopping, wrapping and cooking would have to wait.
I wept in my eggnog.
Then I was taken by surprise.
As we ambled out the front door bundled up in coats and scarves and gloves like a herd of fat Santas, a cheery voice came out of nowhere.
"Have a great night - and Merry Christmas!"
His words were carefree and joyful, lacking the slightest bit of irritation the rest of us were feeling. I did a double-take and muttered "Merry Christmas."
Suddenly, I was ashamed at feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge.
What was I so upset about?
I had just enjoyed a wonderful dinner with my husband and good friends. I was safe and warm and surrounded by twinkling lights. Our boys were only days away from returning home from college. Who cares that I wasn't checking off my list of things to do.
Christmas is a time to revel in all things wonderful.
And sometimes it takes a young, very pleasant stranger with a knack for finding beauty in difficult situations to remind us that there is always something to be cheerful about.
Indeed, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
Enjoy every moment of it. Even when there's ice.
And Merry Christmas.
Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379. Follow her on Twitter @ETeditor.