Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Best Gifts

I hardly recall the dinner I had with a college friend the first Christmas after I had graduated. I remember we ate at Bob Evans. I vaguely remember snippets of the conversation. The one vivid memory of that evening was the gift that he gave me. He was still in college and was, as most college students are, rather short on cash. I did not expect anything from him at all. We were just meant to meet for dinner while he was in town visiting family. I remember what he gave me, though, because it has always been the symbol of what makes a gift really special to me. 

He pushed the gift bag across the table, apologizing for its meager contents. Inside was a box of tea, and in 1995, it likely cost him less than $4. But it was also so much more than just a simple box of tea. You see, I had studied abroad for a semester the year before in Salzburg, Austria, and he knew how much my time there meant to me. He had gone to an international market in his hometown and spent quite a while, he said, looking for something that might trigger those fond memories. What he had given me, in fact, was fruit tea from Germany, and everything printed on the box was in German. I was touched by the sentiment, and the time and care he took in choosing the gift considerably increased its value  to me. I think it was the first time I recognized that there is a real art in gift-giving.

Happily, I have been more aware of such things since that incident so many years ago. I have been the lucky recipient of presents that span a full range of costs but convey the much more valuable idea that someone has really thought of me--who I am and what makes me tick. I hope I have done the same for others. It does mean so much. In fact, I opened an unexpected gift two days ago to find something that struck a similar chord. As I looked at it, I imagined my friend coming upon this mug and actually thinking of me--of me, and I was touched. 

How perfect a gift is this?

I was sipping tea out of my new mug yesterday afternoon when another gift was generously being bestowed on me. We finally enjoyed the most substantial rainfall we've had since we moved here in June. It continued into the evening, and I fell asleep last night like a little kid on Christmas Eve, wondering just how much I would find in the morning under the trees surrounding the pond. I wanted to be the first up to record the change. Apparently, I've been very good this year, and I'm feeling quite grateful. 

It's a pond again!

So today I wish you all a very happy Christmas filled with the invaluable gifts this life has to offer us every day and, more importantly, the eyes to see them and the heart to give them.

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