One of My Earliest Lessons on the Gift of Giving

No matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, this is the season for giving. It’s a lesson we generally learn from our families as we grow up, and I was truly lucky to be born to a mother who set this example for me every day of my life. She still does. But a Christmas gift I received as a child taught me an incredible lesson about the ripple effects of kindness and generosity. It’s a lesson I still think about every year at Christmas time.

Sign up for our Friends for Life newsletter to receive more stories by Chrys Peterson, as well as healthy living advice and recipes. Click the photo to get started.
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A couple of weeks before my sixth Christmas, my best friend’s mother took us to a holiday craft bazaar where I saw the most beautiful Christmas ornament I’d ever seen. It was perfectly round, about the size of a baseball and it was completely covered in layers of green, blue and gold sequins and beads. In all my six years I had never seen such a treasure. The price tag said $3 and I only had two shiny quarters. I wandered around the bazaar, but kept coming back to that one booth, looking longingly at that glorious ornament. Finally, I found the courage to tell the man what a beautiful ornament it was.

“Thank you, young lady. Do you have a Christmas tree at home?”

“Yes, sir,” I said. “And if I had the money, I would buy this ornament!” He smiled kindly and turned his attention to a paying customer.

A short time later we were leaving the bazaar and I heard a man’s voice calling behind me, “Young lady! Young lady with the red coat!”

I realized I was wearing a red coat, so I turned around to see the man who made that sparkly ornament trying to catch up to me. “Do you think you could do me a favor?” he asked. “I have been looking for someone special to give this ornament a good home. Someone who will take very good care of it year after year,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

“I can’t pay for this ornament, sir,” I said.

“No, this is my GIFT to you,” the man explained. “I know how much you love it and I can tell you are a special girl. I really want you to have it. All I ask is that you remember me each Christmas when you hang it on your tree,” he said with a wink.

I didn’t know what a lottery was, but I felt like I’d won it that day!

Each Christmas as I grew, I would hang my exquisite ornament on the tree with pride, and each year I would say a word of thanks to the kind man who gave me such a special gift; a man I never saw again.

I’m not sure whatever happened to that sparkling ornament; it’s been many Christmases since I’ve seen it on my mom’s tree. But as an adult, I realize I received a much bigger gift all those years ago. A gift I’ve treasured all my life: The knowledge that small gestures can produce powerful results.

Four decades later I still remember that man each Christmas. That is what this holiday season is all about. We don’t always know the ripple effects our kindness and generosity will have on others — how that gift of money or time might impact someone — but knowing the powerful potential we have to make a difference to others, why wouldn’t we share our gifts at holiday time, and all year long?

Merry Christmas!

 

IMG_9319Chrys Peterson is a correspondent for ProMedica HealthConnect and spokeswoman for Friends for Life, a monthly newsletter for women that offers health and wellness advice with a focus on cancer prevention.

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