Sunday, October 27, 2013

What the Gift Means



Earlier this week, I took Haydn with me to Walmart for a grocery run. I offered to buy he and his brother those little individual serving cartons of Ben & Jerry's. They are only a dollar, so not a bad treat for good behavior. Unfortunately, Walmart didn't have any. I let Haydn pick out a half-gallon of ice cream instead and figured he and David could split it.

This was fine with Haydn. At first.

In the checkout line, Haydn asked if he could get candy and I said no. Then we had this conversation:

Haydn: Can I at least get a drink then?
Me: No. I bought you ice cream.
Haydn: (gives me a disgruntled expression)
Me: Wait, you don't want ice cream?
Haydn: I wanted my own ice cream. Now we have to share it.
Me: But there's enough for you to each have 3 times as much ice cream as what came in those little cartons.
Haydn: But we have to share it.
Me: Go put it back.

And yes, despite his tears and protests, I made him walk across the store and return the ice cream to the freezer.

As we drove home, I asked him this:

How would you feel if you had drawn me a picture, a present just for me, and when I looked at it, I said, "Well, that's okay, but I wish you'd drawn a dog instead of a cat?"

He begrudgingly admitted this would make him angry.

Having made my point there, I moved onto the next issue. I told him that it is rude to complain about a gift from anyone. That even if someone gives you a shirt that is five times too small, you thank them, because what is important is what the gift MEANS. The gift means the person thought of you. Buying him ice cream meant I thought he was doing a good job and wanted to reward him.

Then, I told him about an experience from my young life. I was a wee thing and spent the night with an aunt whom I adored. When she told me what she'd made me for breakfast, I said, "I don't like that." I can't remember what it was, but I clearly remember her stooping down to look me in the face and tell me I was never to say that again. It was fine for me to say "No, thank you," but when someone does something for you, you do not insult their offering. Ever.

I told Haydn how embarrassed and scared I had felt then. I was a kid who did everything right, and I didn't like thinking I had messed up and hurt my aunt's feelings. Here I am, 31 years old, and when I think of that kiddie faux pas I still feel shame. But I am SO GLAD she corrected me. I never made that mistake again. And I could have.

I told Haydn about being 16 and going to Mexico on mission work. While there, we were served all sorts of foods. The people serving us could mostly barely feed themselves. One boy refused to eat something given to him for lunch at a church, and our youth minister lit him up. He had insulted the generosity of the people who humbly prepared and served his meal. Then, on our last day, the family where my group worked served us chicken soup. The girl beside me realized the chicken we'd played with all week was no longer in the church yard. She was in the soup. My friend would not eat the soup. I was astounded. I mean, I told her on Day one that the chicken was NOT a pet but a future meal. Where did she think chicken soup came from anyway?

It never occurred to me to decline to at least try everything put in front of me on that trip. My aunt made sure of that. And I told Haydn, I will do the same for he and his brother. I will correct them now and save them from embarrassing correction later.

Better to have your mother say, "Stop picking your nose," than to be spotted picking by a bully at school who never lets you live it down.

Amen?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, those childhood errors stick to us all our lives. I know I've got a few rattling around inside me here and there.

    As for your friend who thought of a farm animal as a pet, I suppose that might be one of the more difficult things for a non-rural kid to come to terms with. On a farm you raise food not pets. But chickens should NEVER be perceived as a pet. Chickens are absolutely the nastiest animals I've ever been around. Laying eggs and making chicken and dumplings are all they are fit for.

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