Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Worst Christmas Gift Ever???

As I was listening to a radio show, the commentators were asking listeners to call in with their "worst Christmas gift ever" memories. Of course the usual "wrong size", "ugly fabric or color", "not-my-style", and "various items termed useless junk" gifts were frequently mentioned. The conversation immediately took me to our annual Christmas party and gift exchange at our grade school, reminding me of what I had thought was "the worst gift I had ever received".

Students were asked to spend fifty cents on a gift which would be anonymously given to a fellow student. Keep in mind that this was the early 60's and you could actually find a great gift for fifty cents. The gift needed to be generically neutral - something that would be appropriate for either a boy or a girl. My mom and I shopped for my gift and settled on a "Book of Lifesavers". Ten rolls of assorted flavors of Lifesavers tucked away in a festive holiday gift book. It even contained an entire roll of Cherry Lifesavers - my absolute favorite! I was so thrilled with our purchase that if I could have chosen my own gift, I would have. But, I knew that instead, one of my classmates would hit the jackpot when they opened my gift at our party. We played games and ate treats and then when the time came, our teacher handed each of us one of the wrapped gifts from under our class Christmas tree. When we were finally given permission to open our gifts, the wrapping paper began to fly as each of us literally tore into our gift. When I opened my package, I remember my heart sinking as I discovered 3 pieces of white chalk. That was my gift. That was what I received in exchange for 10 rolls of delicious Lifesavers in a beautiful holiday book. And now - the most difficult part - how could I possibly show genuine gratitude for such a gift, knowing it was the worst gift given to anyone in the class? Well, my mom always insisted that we be thankful for whatever we received no matter what. So, that's what I did. I pretended to be happy for my gift of three pieces of chalk - even though I wasn't. I pretended that I actually needed my gift of three pieces of chalk - even though I didn't. I pretended not to mind that my beautiful holiday book of Lifesavers was going to someone else - even though I did mind. It probably took about 2 1/2 minutes for the gifts to be opened and the festivities to end - but it was actually 2 1/2 minutes of my life that I will never forget. While I was "in the moment" of opening my gift, I didn't realize that someone was watching me. Actually two people were watching me. My teacher approached me after the party and thanked me for accepting my gift graciously - even though she knew that my gift was a bit disappointing to me. That made me feel better. Later I found out that my gift came from a girl in my class who had several brothers and sisters. They were a poor family and purchasing a fifty cent gift for each of their children to take to school was nearly an impossible task. Dividing up a box of chalk between their children who would then take 3 pieces each and give them as their gift to their classmates was a true sacrifice. That little girl was watching me as well as I opened her gift. Fortunately, my mom taught me well and I passed the "how to express your gratitude no matter what you receive" test. I can now only imagine what it would have done to her, had I not been gracious. I guess that deep down, I knew that the gift that I was given was just that - a gift. A potentially negative situation actually created a good memory that I'll never forget. I have come to realize that my gift of chalk really wasn't my worst gift fact I don't believe I ever have had a "worst gift". Why? Because the words "worst" and "gift" just don't go together in my book.

Now, what does this memory have to do with Project Linus? We have had over 44,000 blankets donated to our Project Linus Chapter over the past 10 years. 44,000+ children have been blessed by the kindness and generosity of strangers. 44,000+ blanketeers have painstakingly created beautiful gifts of love that have been donated to a child with no strings attached. Each time someone donates a blanket to Project Linus and that blanket is donated to a child - an unconditional gift exchange occurs. Occasionally blanketeers are able to show their blankets to family and friends before they are given away, resulting in oohs and aahs of admiration. That feels good. Occasionally a thank you note may come our way from a blanket recipient as well. That warms our hearts. But for the most part our "gift exchange" may actually appear to be one-sided. Yet, as we all know, a very special gift exchange actually does occurs. There are always some who say that the LACK of accolades resulting from a beautiful handmade gift anonymously donated to a Project Linus blanket recipient should be termed "the worst gift ever" in this "gift exchange"? I guess they just don't understand where we're coming from...because to each of us as blanketeers, we know that our gift is not only appreciated for its beauty but also for it's healing properties, its comfort, its warmth and the love that is passed on with every stitch. Also, there's something special that touches the heart of a parent when a gift is donated to their child, anonymously. In return, the feelings of goodness, warmth and love that we feel in our hearts when our gift of a blanket begins its journey from our hands to the hands of a child makes the gift exchange complete...creating the BEST gift ever. For this, we say "thank you"!

Merry, merry Christmas and Happy Blanketmaking!