I love gifts! I love getting gifts and giving gifts! I love gifts on my birthday, Christmas or any old day of the year! As a teacher, I’ve received many over the years. Gifts of all shapes, sizes and values! The first ten years of my career I taught in the heart of the Mojave Desert, them moving to a more affluent area. In the desert, when Christmas rolled round the kids were so excited to bring their teacher a gift! There are several that stick out in my mind; a pack of Amway chewing gum, some used blush, the floating rose vase (both the small and large version) and the coveted porcelain sandal! I can see these precious gifts in my mind as if I were looking at a picture. Another one will always make me smile…. the cotton ball Christmas tree! One of the young boys in my class took a two by four and glued cotton balls all over this board to fashion a Christmas tree. Once it took the shape of a tree, he then attempted to color the cotton balls green with a marker. You can only imagine how difficult a task that must have been. The crowing glory was the glitter that was then dumped all over the tree to make it sparkle!! It was beautiful and a true work of art! He came that day with a huge smile and was never more excited to give me his special gift! He never felt more proud and I never more touched to receive such a special gift….. until Sara.
Now, Sara was a young lady with lots of emotional issues and home issues and just plain struggled socially. She was a young girl that needed extra love and attention each and every moment you were with her. I struggled to let her go home each day, not sure what she would encounter. The end of the school year came and Sara brought me a gift. She came through the door of my classroom first thing and ran to me, so excited to give me her gift. It was a busy day and there were a million and one things to do before letting out for the summer, and quite frankly, I did not have time to stop and accept her gift. Besides, it was a little wad of kleenex taped up. What could be so important at this moment? I sent Sara to her seat and proceeded with the day. Well, as you can only imagine, we barely got started with things and Sara was, again, bugging me to “open” her gift. If I recall correctly, this happened two or three times throughout the morning and I was beginning to get a bit irritated. I finally had a moment where God was able to get my attention enough to whisper in my ear to stop and honor sweet Sara and her gift. Really God, right now? We’ve got desks to wash, Father’s Day gifts to finish, report cards to hand out, and party treats to eat. Okay….
Sara approached me with excitement like I’ve never seen. You would think that she was giving me cruise tickets, or better yet, a million dollars! I took a deep breath and put on my acting hat… I needed this to look sincere and not crabby (which was how I was really feeling). I took the small wad of kleenex in my hand and tried to unwrap it. Because she had used an entire role of tape to wrap it, I had to use scissors. She was very insistent that I be careful as not to cut the gift inside. After finishing the surgical procedure to get the tissue off, I finally was able to see the gift that was so gently sitting inside. iIt was two tiny pieces of fake fruit that had been broken off of something larger.
Being the transparent person that I am, to this day I pray that Sara did not see the bewildered look on my face as I struggled to understand her gift. She had no great and grand explanation for me, other than her utter happiness to give me this gift. I’m not sure how to describe the moment, but my heart went from irritated to deeply moved in an instant. Her gift was not fancy or large or expensive (or even usable for that matter), but came wrapped in more love than one could imagine. Nothing fancy…. nothing expensive…. nothing even reusable…. but given with love and asking for nothing in return.
As you can see, this gift has stayed with me for the past 15 or so years…. not because it is something that I can use, but because it came from a little girl with a broken heart that wanted to show her love. After leaving the desert and moving to a more affluent community, the gifts I was given changed drastically. I received Longaburger baskets, gift certificates, Yankee Candles, Beanie Babies….. need I go on. My friends from the desert used to call me each year to find out what amazing gifts I’d received. It was almost embarrassing. Now, don’t get the idea that I did not love and appreciate each and every gift I received! I will, however, never forget the first time a student set a gift down on the table and said, “I don’t know what this is… my mom just told me to give it to you.”
Recently, I received a note from a third grader I work with each day. She, in many ways, reminds me of Sara. Her note touched me deeply, and again, I was reminded that it’s not the size or shape of the gift, but the heart behind it. In my new position, I don’t receive gifts like I used to, but these notes are enough to last me a lifetime!
I’ve been thinking about the gifts I give to my heavenly Papa each day. Is it important that it be fancy, with bows and ribbons, given in grand style as I pray in my ceremonial quiet time place? Or is it enough that each day I offer the gift of my time to Him, all wrapped in the used kleenex that I’ve cried into, and my humble heart in whatever shape it’s in ….. just because I love him… expecting nothing in return? I think we can all learn a lesson from Sara.