Last week I asked my co-worker, “What was the best gift you have ever received?” Now, this lady was raised in a very poor family, so I was expecting to hear about a much-wanted doll or perhaps a piece of jewelry from her husband… instead, “My black Cadillac.” A friend that owned a local very successful company had given her the desire of her heart. A good friend, indeed!
I began thinking about gifts I have received through the years and I realized most of them were not really ‘tangible’. I wasn’t able hold them in a literal sense, and I didn’t have to find a place to set them, or dust them, or pack them up and move them. Instead, I have carried them around in my heart where I can bring them out at will, wherever I am, whenever I want. Another cool thing is reminders of those gifts pop into my head during some of the most bland moments of my day… doing the laundry, staring out the kitchen window, driving through town. They’re little unexpected reminders of what really matters, and frankly, I think what really matters in life, is family and relationships. They can’t be bought.
After the Christmas of ’92 when I was emotionally ragged from work and stress,my childhood friend of 30 years sent me the money for a round trip plane ticket to California to spend some time with her. When I tried to pay her, she said, “No, it’s not allowed.” After arriving in California, she paid for all my meals and treated me to side trips to various communities–one of the most unforgettable vacations I’ve ever had, and it was because a friend took the time to show me love. Now, we are friends of 50 years–and not just because of that free trip.
Without thinking much about it, I happened to tell Husband that I had never had a birthday party… I should have kept that info to myself. When I turned 50 years old, he gave me a surprise birthday party. I actually don’t like surprises of any sort, and being as I am such a shy little bird, I don’t like being the center of attention, but Husband had cared enough to give me a meaningful gift. He baked a chocolate cake, made punch, and had a heaping tray of chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce all nicely displayed and awaiting the guests. Cake and shrimp, an interesting combination! I survived all the attention, and was grateful that the women cared enough to attend (but I still don’t like being the center of attention).
Good friend Good Sally came to my rescue in a most admirable way one time. My car was incapacitated–again; it seems to have a knack for that behavior and has frequently blessed me with break-downs and hissy fits. This time was no exception, as the Purple Beast was sitting in our garage with its engine missing. Thusly, I would not be able to take my twice yearly trip to see my grandchildren.
Good Neighbor, Good Friend, Good Sally stepped up to the plate and loaned me her car. I’ve never had anyone loan me a car for personal use–that’s too big of a favor! But Good Sally simply said, “It’s just metal!” Off I went into the wild blue yonder, and before the dust had settled, I’d racked up 1400 miles. Again, a gift I couldn’t hold in my hands.
When my mother died, my husband couldn’t attend the services; he was an over-the-road trucker, on the Interstate somewhere deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Before the funeral service, I turned and noticed my in-laws sitting in the pews; they had taken the time out of their day, and away from their work, to be there for me when my own husband couldn’t. That meant a lot.
And just in the past month, another Great Gift: meeting up with my daughter and grand kids at my brother’s house. Nearly 700 miles from my house, but only 3 hours away from where the Gkids live, Husband and I met up with my daughter, her seven-year old and nine-year old for twenty-four hours of memory making. The Gkids had never before held and fed rabbits, chased free-range chickens, commandeered a paddle boat on a private pond, cooked over an open campfire, ‘driven’ (steered) an ATV, or ran free in the forest. Money couldn’t buy these things, it was a gift of caring and hospitality on my brother’s part.
I like these types of gifts, they are the best. Sometimes unexpected, often chosen with kindness and caring, thoughtful, no strings attached, selfless, memorable, generous. Appearing at just the right time, an example of love and friendship. No need to join in the hectic shopping mode, no need to fret that one has to stretch skinny dollars even further. You can forget the wrapping paper, the frenzied rush at the post office because these gifts won’t get broken, tossed away, or passed onto someone else because it’s not what the recipient wanted. These gifts are of the sort that the giver is blessed along with the recipient.
This we know: “Every good thing is given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting of shadow.” James 1:17.
“Now this I say, he who sows sparingly, will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, no grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9: 6,7.