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.”
“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, visitwww.jvdcreativity.com and www.experientialexercises.com. Put some ZING into your corporate communications at www.powerpointjoint.com. For church zing, seewww.fatsheep.org and www.worshipzing.com.
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, www.randyjharvey.com, for articles andproducts to help you improve your presentation skills.