By Ann D'Arcy
It was Christmas morning when all our children were young. Our living room was littered with wrapping paper, boxes, ribbons, and bows. Christmas carols played softly in the background. The music was almost drowned out by the happy squeals and excited chatter of the children. We thought the last gift had been taken from under the tree. My husband and I sat on the sofa smiling benignly on the scene of blissful confusion before us.
Suddenly, Harry, our 7-year-old, scampered across the floor through all the debris, on his hands and knees. He reached way behind the tree and dragged out the most pathetic looking, oddly shaped, package I'd ever seen.
He walked on his knees over to my side of the sofa and placed it lovingly on my lap.
How I wish I'd taken a picture of this knobby, awkward gift; but I realize I'll forever hold the image of it in my mind. It was covered with a variety of Christmas wrapping paper. It looked as though scraps had been dug from the trash and smoothed out before being taped onto the hidden mass beneath. I think there was more cellophane tape than paper.
Harry smiled at me, and said, "This is for you, Mom."
"Really? How nice Harry."
I tore the paper off and discovered a conglomeration of old pots and pans. They were items that had been shoved to the back of one of the lower cupboards in the kitchen. It was junk that surely should have been tossed out long ago. Dented percolator coffee pot, small stained and scorched saucepan, a few lids with no pots to match. There was a silly little mini-double boiler that looked as though it was made of tin, much too small to use on any unit of the stove. It made me wonder where I'd ever gotten it. Probably from one of those shows on television that promise, "If you order today, you'll receive this handy little double boiler absolutely free!" The operative word was obviously little.
I looked and immediately saw the real gift. Harry had wanted to give me more. He wanted to give me something even though he had no resources. How he must have searched, looking for items I wouldn't recognize as things I already owned. I'm sure he'd never seen me using these old, battered items.
Tears filled my eyes at the beauty that lay before me. I looked lovingly at him and said, "Oh, Harry! Thank you!"
All Harry saw were my tears. "You don't like it."
"Oh, Honey. I LOVE it."
"No. It's a dumb present." He looked at the pile of used pans and compared them in his mind with all the bright, shiny, new things that lay about the room. I hugged him and told him it was my favorite gift. He studied me and evidently could read my look of sincerity. A smile began to creep across his face. I said, once again, with a big smile. "I love it, really I do. Thank you, Harry." He said "You're welcome," returned my hug and went off to play with his things.
I looked over at my husband, and the tears spilled from my eyes and down my cheeks as I whispered, "Isn't this precious?"
Harry is a grown man. He has five beautiful children of his own now. When I sit in church each Christmas season and listen to homilies about giving God a gift of ourselves, I often think of Harry's gift, so long ago.
I doubt he ever knew or could possibly understand how much his gift meant to me. It wasn't important that it belonged to me in the first place ... or that it was used and looking a little — no, a lot — worse for wear. It was his sincere desire to please me, to offer something special.
Many times I wonder what I can bring to God. After all, everything I am belongs to Him in the first place. I feel inadequate and full of a deep sense of unworthiness. He's given me so much and, many times, I feel I haven't been a good steward of His gifts. I'd like to envision myself as a silver or golden chalice, filled with His blessings and offering them back to Him. In reality, I feel like a battered, dented, stained old pot.
God can fill even the meanest of receptacles — a manger, a messy holiday morning, a life — with His glory and presence. It isn't our perfection, it's the gift of self and the love with which it's offered, that counts.
Ann D'Arcy, a Marian Helper, lives in Northville, Mich.