There are some gifts that we give and receive that are never truly appreciated. This is just one gift that remained that way – until it was given away.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know that we have given gifts without much thought or fanfare. Whether it was a quick purchase, last-minute offering or something that was affordable but not sensible – it has happened to the best of us. Each of us has also received such a gift. They are the gifts that seem to slip off the radar screen and end up packed away in the storage rooms and closets, never to resurface again. Perhaps it is the crocheted orange and gold scarf from a favorite aunt or another knickknack from the children that becomes left to collect dust on the already overcrowded shelves that line the living room walls.
This happened one Christmas when my husband received an orange, purple and black neon-colored ski jacket from a relative. The husband hated it but put on the “happy face” when he opened it. Thankfully, I can read his mind after all these years and when Christmas was over and the presents were all opened and the guests had gone home, I quietly placed the jacket in the back of the closet.
Many months passed and the ski jacket remained tucked away in the back of the hall closet, getting pushed further and further into the depths of winter clothing that often hangs untouched for three full seasons.
One day there appeared a flyer from the local Salvation Army that brought my thoughts back to the ski jacket that Thanksgiving week. It read in part, “Coats are needed to warm the homeless in our midst.” There was finally an opportunity to clean out the closets overflowing with unwanted clothing. I telephoned my husband and offered him the chance to regift the jacket and he overwhelmingly agreed. I dropped it in the bin that afternoon and quickly forgot about trying to explain to the relative about the jacket’s new status of ‘missing in action’.
Thanksgiving faded and the Christmas rush took hold of our lives. The hurriedness of the holidays had left us both breathless and we paused after a church service one morning to consider what our Pastor had asked of us, “Give of your time and talents this year. It could be the best gift that you offer. Help out at the Soup Kitchens that will be serving Christmas dinner to the homeless.”
Without hesitation, we signed on the very next day. As the days passed and Christmas morning grew near, we were excited about serving at the local shelter. When we arrived early to help with the setup and seating, there was already a long line snaked around the corner although the temps outside had dropped below freezing. Many of the men, women and children in the line were without warm coats. My heart was breaking for them until we stepped through the entrance and squeezed past the gentleman carrying a large cardboard box filled with coats, hats, gloves and scarves. The Director of the program had decided not to wait until after dinner to hand out the presents of the warm clothing but instead to take it out to the waiting masses and distribute it while they waited patiently in the lines outside. I smiled and hurriedly found my place behind the food counter. The warmth from the hot plates took the chill out of my own cold hands and I was thankful to be safely inside and sheltered. My thoughts wandered back to those waiting outdoors.
Someone yelled, “Ten minutes and we’re opening the doors. Get ready, folks.” The last bit of bread was placed in the bin and the doors opened wide. At least 200 people immediately swarmed through the doors although they were orderly and reserved, no pushing or shoving, and each one seemed to smile broadly at the sight of all the food and decorated tables. A Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room and one child quickly ran and sat underneath the tree. It brought tears to my eyes as I thought of our own tree at home with the overabundance of presents piled high beneath it.
We began serving the food, wishing each person a very Merry Christmas and I barely had the time to raise my eyes to look at everyone. Suddenly, a graveled voice said,
“This is the best Christmas ever, just look at this beautiful coat I’ve received!”
I looked up, stunned at the sight of the 70-something-year-old man standing in my husband’s orange-neon-colored ski jacket.
“Ain’t she great! And, warm, too. Best Christmas ever. Thank you, Jesus.”
I elbowed my husband and tried my best to smile back at the man although I was choking on my words and barely mumbled, “Yes, it’s great.”
My husband’s body stiffened and I swear I felt him giggle slightly but he managed a very composed, “Merry Christmas, Sir.”
On the way home we were both very quiet. It had been a very long and tiring day but somehow I had never felt so satisfied – even though both of us were so busy that we forgot to eat.
“Are you hungry?”
My husband smiled and said, “Nope. In fact, I’ve never felt so filled.”
Our personal experience with regifting and the thankfulness of one homeless man.