The Gift

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I stepped out the door. The air’s crisper than the crease in Donald Trump’s pants. The cold air can’t keep my spirits down – I’m bouncing up and down like a kid who has to use the bathroom. Except I’m excited, not desperate.

I finally found the perfect present and I can’t wait to get home, wrap it, and ship it to my sister. The odds of finding a suitable present for Gail are as good as finding leftover dessert at a Baptist potluck. You could say Gail’s difficult to buy for. But that would be like saying my dog likes week-old garbage. It just doesn’t get across the depth of feeling.

You see, Gail’s got phobias. Lots of phobias. She’s scared of smells – and if you sniff hard, everything smells!

The DVD player we bought her a few years ago … well, she returned it because it smelled of perfume. It didn’t matter that it was made of metal, came from an electronics store — not a perfumery. In her mind, it smelled of perfume. And back it went.

Books smell of ink. Clothes smell like the dyes used to colour them. Sheets and towels have formaldehyde on them to make them perma-press.

But this year, I got something that I knew she would like – that wouldn’t have smells attacking her sensitivities. Gail always loved mom’s Royal Albert tea service. As a child, she always wanted to play with it – but of course she wasn’t allowed to touch it! I could tell she loved it. When we had company, the tea service came out and Gail would get this dreamy look on her face like a mental patient on prozak. She’d carefully caress the smooth porcelain with her just the tips of her fingers.

Mom’s tea service isn’t in service any more. The teacups went into a moving van long ago and never came out again and the overwrought teapot took its own life on a wooden floor twenty years ago. The pattern and pattern maker vanished long ago as well.

But today, yes, today, I found that forgotten pattern in a forgotten store in uptown Saint John. That bashful teaservice lerking in a dark corner of the timid shop, hiding itself from my wandering eye. I almost missed it. I approached like a hungry cat pouncing on the unsuspecting mouse. A Royal Albert tea pot. Two china tea cups and their saucers. No chips. No cracks. It isn’t perfect. It’s stained with dust. But that will wash—along with any odors.

If I wash it, dry it carefully, seal it in a plastic bag, she can’t complain of the smell. I know Gail’s love for Royal Albert will be stronger than her fear.

I can hardly wait. I long to hear the joy in her voice.

Three weeks later.

I mailed the package. I was notified by shipping company’s website it arrived two days ago. But Gail hasn’t phoned.

Did it get delivered to the wrong house? Is Gail sick? Why hasn’t she called?


“Gail, um, I sent you a parcel. The website says it was delivered two days ago. Did you get it?”


“Did you open it?”

“No. I could tell it was smelly.”

“Gail, how could you tell it was smelly if you didn’t open it?”

“You know I’ve got allergies. My muscles started feeling sore when I looked at it.”

“Right. So you didn’t open it.”

“I put it outside to air out.”

“Well, why don’t you open it outside and throw away the smelly wrapping paper and then bring the present inside.”

“But the smell from the paper would be on the present!”

“Gail…just go get the present.”

“I can’t.”

“Gail, get it!”

“I can’t. Someone must have taken it from the front lawn. It’s not there now.”


My joy has been cruelly killed – murdered mercilessly long distance. Weariness wraps around me like a boa constricter.

She didn’t even open the present.

Now I wish I could say I made this story up. Actually it’s half true. I didn’t buy Gail a tea service this year. The truth is that the DVD player we bought last year was stinky. It was returned. As were previous presents.

However, the story isn’t really about Gail. It’s about a gift. The gift that wasn’t opened.

It’s an allegory.

Perhaps we could say this story is about—food. Perhaps the wife takes my part in the story. I shopped, washed and wrapped the present. It took hours. kneading, prepping and cooking, the cook’s carefully shopped, washed and prepared her present. It’s taken hours and hours of toil, tenderness and attention.

The husband comes home, takes one look at the meal and says in his most romantic and tender way, “What’s that? My mother never made that! I’m not eating it!”

Hope and joy evaporate like drops of water on a red hot griddle. Hubby might as well take his wife’s hand and place it on that burning pan. Beause her heart just froze like pollywogs in December. It will thaw but the invisible scar will remain.

But this message isn’t just about Gail. And it isn’t about food. It isn’t just for husbands. Or just the wives. It’s for all of us.

God has prepared a great feast for us, given us all gifts.

“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “come and dine! ‘

His largest and best gift is eternal life though his Son, Jesus Christ.

God’s also given peace and joy. He gives faith and healing. Tongues and knowledge to others. The ability to encourage. To sew. To paint. To laugh. To love.

And yet, we don’t open many of these gifts because we’re AFRAID. We don’t like the packaging. Or the paper they’re wrapped with.

“What’s that? I’ve never seen a Christmas present wrapped with turquoise wrapping paper before. The paper’s got to be green or red or it ain’t a Christmas present.”
I can only imagine God’s sorrow.

Today, open the gifts God has chosen just for you. And you’ll find: love, joy, peace, hope, endurance, faith and a whole lot more.

“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “come and dine!”

Written by Jean V. Dickson and Randy J. Harvey.

Jean V. Dickson is a Canadian-based entrepreneur who puts creativity’s ZING into training and communications. For more information on creativity and innovation, and Put some ZING into your corporate communications at For church zing, and

Randy J. Harvey, Ph.D. is the Toastmasters 2004 World Champion of Public Speaking. He is an educator, lawyer, storyteller, speech coach, and award-winning speaker. Check out Randy’s website,, for articles andproducts to help you improve your presentation skills.


The 21st Century African Woman


She stands firm like the Egyptian pyramids

She walks gracefully like the Gazelles

Though her skin has been darkened by the sun

Her heart is made bright by His son

She is bold like the Lion

Walks tall with her head held high like the Giraffes

She is as flamboyant as the Peacocks

Like the Camel she bears the load of her family upon her back

She is elegant and independent

She obtains all the degrees she can with determination to the best

She struggles for relevance in a man-dominated world of politics, finances and engineering

She doesn’t wait for someone to drive her around, she learns to do that herself

She is a very strong woman on the outside but oftentimes weak inside

She may act like she’s single and sassy but deep within she wants to find that male body whose rib she holds

She keeps up with fashion trends

She doesn’t tie wrappers on her chest when she’s at home but prefers to be kitted in something sexy for her man

She works out to keep fit

She understands how important it is to keep her man and does all she can to keep him interested

She doesn’t carry plain cornrows or thread plaited hair but uses pretty extensions and wigs

She loves shopping and visiting the salon

She is classy and edgy

She walks confidently and tall in glamorous high heeled shoes

She says no to the idea of idling about at home and rather prefers to shuttle between her job and house chores

She still goes to work when she is heavy with her unborn child and has swollen feet

The older ones look at her and say she is lazy because she uses a gas cooker to cook her meals instead of firewood

Vacuums her floors instead of bending down with a broom

Uses a washing machine to wash her clothes

She uses a food processor to make ‘pounded yam’ instead of a mortar and pistil

She buys her food fully processed or semi processed

Blends pepper instead of using a grinding stone

But is she really lazier than the older ones?

She may not have fought slave trade and black oppression

But she constantly fights oppression against young girls

She actively supports her family and doesn’t remain a liability

She doesn’t sit in the marketplace gossiping but actively does same on her social networks

She is excellent in multitasking

She remembers birthdays and anniversaries as though a reminder is in her head

She holds up her home with her daily prayers and tears at night

She is hardworking and selfless

She pursues her career and juggles it with her family

If one were to suffer,

Definitely not her home

She reaches out to the poor on the streets

Establishes foundations to help abused children

She is an epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman

She is your mother, your sister and wife

Love her, respect her, and appreciate her.

Cheers to all the African women out there!

© Mfon Etuk, 2015

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