I thought you’d enjoy a story from Abundant Gifts that, if you had the book, you’d be reading this week. This is an everyday gift and also speaks of gifts to others.
Then [Jesus] said to them, Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.—Luke 9:48, NIV
Ernest Boyer Jr., in Finding God at Home (Harper & Row, 1994), tells how as a young boy he would tug on his great-grandfathers jacket to get his attention when the man was talking to someone. His great-grandfather would finish his sentence, stoop down to Ernest’s level, look at him, and wait patiently. “As he waited, he looked at me with eyes that told me I need not hurry, that there was time, eyes that said that I need not fear what he would think of what I might say, anything would be fine, eyes that seemed to see the person I most truly was and accept that person. His was caring of the deepest sort.”
Such a simple thing–to listen to a child. Yet this deceptively simple act of a great-grandfather influenced Boyer deeply. The memory lingered of what it was like to have been in the full acceptance of those eyes. Years later, Boyer believes his view of God is connected to that experience of being so fully accepted and loved by his great-grandfather.
Memory holds clues to who we are, perhaps to who we will become. I remember playing with my mother when I was very young–maybe three. It was just the two of us on the floor having what I remember as a tea party. I do remember clearly that she seemed to relish being in my company. I ride those same emotional tracks whenever I sit down and play with my own daughter.
I remember walks outdoors with an aunt. She and I would listen to the birds and try to guess what kind of bird it was. When we’d spot it and find out we were right, we’d squeal with laughter. Today I feel the same thrill when I recognize a birdsong and spy the bird.
Once as a teenager I was accused of taking pills from neighbors for whom I baby-sat. To do something like that never would have occurred to me. Yet the people were convinced I was a drug addict and spread rumors about me. My father asked me if the accusations were true. I said no. He believed me and defended me to my accusers. I sought never to betray that trust he had in me. I also try never to jump to conclusions about others before hearing their story.
Think back on the gifts from others that have made you who you are. If you can, thank the people. Then look ahead. What emotional and spiritual tracks are you laying for others? The words and actions of your everyday life carry weight, perhaps eternal weight. They are vehicles for gifts God wants to extend to others through you.
For more excerpts, and to find out about the Christmas Special, visit the Abundant Gifts book website.