Light and Gifts
Our birthday cakes are adorned with sparkling lights. The burning candles shine until we breathe a wish and a prayer over them, causing the light to go out. But the smoke rises like a prayer to God, hoping He will hear our desire. Every one of us—young and old, rich and poor, introvert and extrovert—has been given gifts! But what good are gifts if we never use them, share them, let them shine?
A little story
Back in the 70s, a man saw a girl of 17 or 18 sitting on the curb in front of his house, bawling her eyes out. She had come to the big city from a Native American reservation in Oklahoma to start a new life with her boyfriend. She dreamed of living a whole and prosperous life with her true love. Little did she know her boyfriend had moved on. He had found someone prettier, richer, more willing to do his bidding—leaving the little Native girl with nothing: no home, no money, no plans.
The owner of the house and curb looked out his window, ever-present coffee cup in hand, and stood there wondering what had brought this girl to his literal curb. The man went outside and to the girl. He didn’t tell her to “move on” or ignore her. No. He sat beside her on the busy street and gently asked if all was all right.
She told the man her tale and began to sob. The man, without flinching, brought her into his house. He and his wife fed the girl and let her use the bathroom to refresh herself. The girl sat in stunned silence through the quiet breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, and, yes, the ever-present coffee. There was only the man, his wife, and their little boy to witness the pain and sorrow of the little Native girl. She would take a bite of food, chew two or three times, then stop—her eyes welling again with tears—then eventually resume chewing. Her mind seemed to be a whirl of what had happened, what she’d do next, and what would happen to her. She had no money, no one to love her, no future.
The man’s wife made the girl three or four sandwiches and found an old thermos that she filled with sweetened coffee and cream. She also found a few blouses she didn’t wear very often and a few changes of underwear, then slipped them into an old backpack their little boy didn’t use anymore. As the girl received these things, she broke into tears and hugged each family member like they were her own.
A Remarkable Thing was Happening
The man asked the girl if she would allow him to take her downtown. He needed to go to work, and she could ride to the bus station with him. She started to protest that she had no money and nowhere to go. But the man waved a hand and said, “Don’t worry. Something will come.” He took the girl to the bus station, bought her a bus ticket back to her people in Oklahoma, and gave her $25, enough for any extras that might make her trip a little more bearable. Again, with tears in her eyes, she hugged the man and didn’t want to let such kindness go. But she knew she had to when the announcement of the bus’s departure came.
After the girl was gone, the couple’s little boy, maybe eight years old at the time, asked his dad, “Why’d you help her?” The father answered, “She was in need.” He shrugged his shoulders, “And we could help.” That was all it took, that one phrase, “She was in need.”
The man and his wife didn’t expect anything in return. No paybacks, no letters of “thank you,” no public pat on the back. No. They were doing what they’d been taught. They were passing their inner light along as a gift.
How do I know this story is true? Because the man and wife were my father and mother. I was the little boy.
Pope Francis said, “God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving.”
So, this week, this month, this year—ask yourself these questions:
- What gifts have I been given that burn brightly in me?
- What gifts do I have to give and let shine in other’s lives?
- What light and gifts will I be known for?
May you be remembered by all for the gifts you didn’t know you had.