Christmas Is Kindness

Hilary Berg, OWP Editor

One of my favorite Christmas quotes comes from author/illustrator Mary Engelbreit in her book “Believe: A Christmas Treasury.” She writes, “Open your heart — open it wide; someone is standing outside.”

It’s obvious from the picture — Santa and an angel are standing outside a snow-capped house, holding a glowing candle — that Engelbreit is referring to St. Nick’s ability to witness your good and not-so-good moments at any given time. But for me, the quote is about practicing kindness and generosity, no matter who is watching.

Last month, I traveled to Gales Creek, just northwest of Forest Grove, to visit Shafer Vineyard Cellars and the lovely Miki Shafer, whose Christmas shop is featured on page 16.

The first time I met Miki was years ago, not long after I moved to Oregon in 2000. My husband (then boyfriend) took me for a drive in the countryside; I needed to get out of the city. I was depressed; I was not used to the gray skies, rainy weather and occasional chilly attitude in my new home of Portland. I also missed my family and friends in Kansas terribly.

After winding around country roads, we came upon Shafer Vineyard Cellars. Next to the winery sign was another one with the words “Miki’s Christmas Shop.” My eyes lit up. Greeted at the door by Miki, I walked inside. The cozy, inviting atmosphere warmed my spirits instantly. 

Miki is what I call a “small-town” kind of nice. No airs. Genuine. Her home is your home. She even called me “honey,” on that winter day, years ago, making me think fondly of great-aunts back home.

After sampling many wines, we ventured into the holiday shop. Filled with glittery ornaments and colorful German smokers (incense burners) and so much more, Miki’s shop put a much-welcome smile on my face. 

Chris and I ended up buying a smoker that day for my mother, who is of German descent. Since then, we have purchased a few others over the years, each one from Miki.

When it came time to decide on a shop to showcase in this month’s Empourium, I could think of none other than Shafer Vineyard Cellars.

While there, selecting items for the page, I was delighted to chat with Miki, who told me about her new practice of sending a signed Christmas card with every online purchase. She says she has received letters from customers, thanking her for the card, saying hers was the only one they received over the holiday season. She told me, “Honey, it’s the little things that matter.”

After choosing the items I wanted to feature, I returned to the smokers and studied them again, thinking I might buy another one for my mom... Then, while she was busily filling online orders, she asked, “Which one you like, honey?” 

I knew what she was doing; she was going to give me one. Knowing how spendy they are, I continued to look without responding. 

She asked it again, “Which one you like, honey?” 

I couldn’t just ignore her, so I said, truthfully, “I like them all.” 

Thinking I had cleverly averted her undeserved generosity, I approached the counter with my Empourium goodies, ready to leave, when, from a room in the back, I hear Miki ask it again, “Which one you like, honey?” 

I asked her daughter, Crystal, who was standing behind the bar, “Is your mom trying to give me a smoker?” She responded, “Yep, that would be my mom.”

I suddenly realized this was more about her wanting to give, so I said, feeling a tinge of receiver’s guilt, “The hairdresser is adorable.” Minutes later, Miki came out with the little wooden lady carefully wrapped like a present. 

I queried, “Wow, are you sure you want to give me that?” 

Miki just smiled. 

I thanked her and left. Driving home, I felt such joy. Her gift to me was so much more than what was inside the box. It was proof that graciousness is alive and well.

I know Santa was peeking inside Shafer Vineyard Cellars that day, witnessing the kindness and generosity that is the Christmas spirit.

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