Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘gift’ as
1) a notable capacity, talent, or endowment
2) something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation
3) the act, right, or power of giving
During the span of my life, I have given many gifts and I have received many gifts. And quite honestly, very few of those gifts that I gave or the gifts that I received were all that memorable. Maybe the memories of gifts last for a few years, or maybe for a few months, or maybe just a few weeks. A very few gifts are etched into my mind forever.
Years ago, I gave a young woman my last five dollars. Not from the savings account that I didn’t have at the time. Not on a rubber check. It was the wrinkled fin that was in my left front pocket. She was in an abusive relationship. Her lesser half beat on her, checked in on her regularly at her work and controlled all of the family’s money. He lived comfortably on their two paychecks. She worried, on that particular day, that she might not have enough gasoline to get her son to daycare and her to work. So I gave her my five dollar bill. She said “You’re the nicest person that I know”. And she didn’t even realize that the five dollars was my life savings up until that point.
Why in the hell would I do something like that? Back in those days, I could’ve bought a pack of smokes and a six-pack of beer with my five dollars. Throughout my lifetime, I’ve led a pretty self-centered existence. But there were occasional bright moments of hope, where it was all about someone else and not just about myself. When you think of Christmas now-a-days, you think of gift giving. The Scrooge in me sees the typical family sitting around in a big circle, each member throwing a twenty dollar bill into the middle, everyone reaching in for a twenty, and then thanking another family member for the nice ‘twenty’ that they had just received. Wow, that certainly was cynical. But again, why in the hell would I give away my last five dollars?
When my sisters and I were kids, Christmas was a big deal. Our family wasn’t living in anybody’s lap of luxury. But our Mom and Dad went out of their way to provide us with everything that we needed. Sure, we ate our share of Brussels sprouts, navy beans and scrapple, each served with ketchup, the condiment of the decade. But we ate well, we lived in a nice home and we were very fortunate. And it took me many years to realize the other thing that we children were…which was grateful. At Christmas time, our family, like so many other families, had a routine for the season. A holiday routine that was our own tradition. Not TRADITION!, like some Russian fiddler doing the Kazatsky dance on a rooftop, but typical things like opening one gift on Christmas Eve, church on Christmas morning, and eating some German inspired strudel-thingee before opening the remaining gifts. On one particular Christmas day, we had followed tradition to a tee, leaving a trail of giggles and wrapping paper in the living room. The three of us had taken in quite a haul of gifts that morning. It seemed that the madness was over for yet another year. And then the announcement was made that there was one more thing to open and we were directed towards the closed doors of the formal dining room (which we rarely used). And behind those doors was a memory waiting to be etched into my memory forever. Brand new bikes for my sisters and myself. Our parents had rubbed a couple of coins together and gave us something special. Not just special like a new bike on Christmas morning kind of special, but a gift that we could use throughout our lives.
“You’re the nicest person that I know”. Well, I may not be the best of student, but I had great teachers.