"The Gift" (a sample challenge story)
I was away on a business trip and eating by myself in a restaurant. Across the way I watched two elderly ladies talking to the waiter. They were trying to figure out if they could afford to order what they really wanted. It was a place that specialized in pies for dessert and they decided if they didn't actually get dessert they could probably afford an entrée each.
I decided I would anonymously pay for their meal and include a fancy dessert for each of them. I told my waiter to arrange it with their waiter. That seemed to cause a lot of commotion but we pulled it off and I got to hear their surprise, disbelief and gratitude from across the room. They just couldn't fathom that it was for them and that it was anonymous
Somehow their giggles made my meal that much better-- certainly less lonely. As I left (after the ladies did) I was stopped by both waiters who asked me if I knew who the two ladies were.
When I said no they asked “ then why did you do that?”
I told them it's something my mom used to do when she was feeling down. She would say” Whenever I need to feel blessed I go out and be a blessing.” I never really saw the logic in that until I started doing it. You”ll want to try it. You'll like it.” I believe they will.
Three people-- no five-- were brought together and uplifted by a simple act.
You were right mom, it works.
The coolest gift I ever got was stolen, then given away and I ended up really happy about it.
I was seven years old. The gift bestowed upon me by my beloved aunt Tillie was a 14 inch long double propeller battery powered plastic speedboat. Low tech. No controls. Just on and off – yet still the most envied toy in the inner-city.
So it was that Eddie, the neighborhood bad boy, stole it from right under my nose and then did a very un-Eddie like thing – he gave it away.
The recipient was Ronald – undeniably the poorest kid in our school. We were all pretty poor but Ronald was really poor. He rarely had lunch money, he wore the same tattered clothes every day and had really messed up shoes.
Regardless of his financial status I was on my way to Ronald's house to get my boat back. I was absolutely determined to succeed in my mission until I entered Ronalds tiny backyard and saw him playing with my boat--and then the tears came.
The tears both shocked and embarrassed me but I was seven years old and I couldn't help it. Ronald was so happy! I never ever remembered seeing Ronald happy and now he was beaming. He was actually radiant-- and the tears just came. Happy tears. Happy for the other guy tears.
"David, come see what Eddie gave me! I can't believe it! It's the best gift I ever got! I am so lucky!"
Lucky? That did it. Ronald was the unluckiest kid I ever met and so I promptly abandoned my mission of revenge and jumped on Ronald's celebration train and rode it with him all afternoon.
It was weird and yet somehow wonderful. Definitely a new sensation.
That summer Ronald and I spent many afternoons playing with his speed boat.I never told him it was really mine. I never ratted on Eddie either. I let him remain Ronalds hero.
For some reason it all just felt good and right. It made my heart beat in a different way. I liked how it felt.
A few years later bad boy Eddie stole my bike, repainted it, sold it, got caught, and after a short term in the bad boy place turned over a new leaf.I heard he eventually became a lawyer and a somewhat respectable member of society. He's probably an advocate for the disadvantaged.
I have no idea what happened to Ronald. He and his caretaker grandmother and my speedboat disappeared from my life before school began again that fall. But the memory of the summer afternoons with Ronald and my wonderful warm secret with God still remains and it makes me smile.
Now whenever life brings a new set of sudden Ronald tears I'm no longer shocked or embarrassed. Now I know that those moments are simply a window into the heart of God. His gift to me.
“Be Very Careful”
When I was a junior in high school just learning to drive I asked my dad if I could borrow his shiny brand-new Dodge 880 station wagon. I needed it to chauffer my band and all our equipment to a gig we had Friday night.
I've begged him until he relented.
“Be very careful” he warned me, the car is brand-new and the roads are pretty slippery. There might be ice.
We definitely looked successful showing up in this gigantic brand new boat of a station wagon. I think we played extra good that night just because we felt so cool.
Driving home Highway 78 in light snow flurries we were singing one of our songs when the Allentown exit came up fast. I hit the brakes hard but the tires lost traction and we started to swerve. I over corrected and now we were spinning. The front hit the guard rail first, spun us around and then The rear-end hit it too. Disaster!
My dad’s "Be very careful" warning rang in my ears. It was my very first accident and the crunching metal sound sickened me. So did the site of my dads crunched up brand-new car.
I dropped the guys off, received their sincere best wishes for my survival and drove home to tell my dad.
It was late, he was asleep, but I couldn't bear to wait. I had to get it over with so I woke him up.
“Dad, I'm so sorry. We hit a slippery patch on the freeway. We spun-- I hit the guard rail and wrecked the front and the back. I am so sorry.”
Half awake, he blinked in disbelief but then, with total transparent concern reached out for me and said "Are you OK?"
I"ve played that moment back I bet a 1000 times. "Are you OK?"
In that moment I knew he prized me more than any possession. I melted. Broke down. Confessed that I panicked- wasn't careful.
He said” It's OK --these things happen. We’ll look at it in the morning--get yourself some sleep”
I went to bed with a very full heart. Loved and Forgiven.
I was almost glad it happened.