Three Gifts

My mom was a teacher, and every holiday season she received dozens of gifts from her students – homemade bread and cookies, candles and bath salts, coffee mugs and ornaments. One year she came home with a figurine of a teddy bear. It wasn’t a Christmas-themed bear figurine, it was kind of smudged and dirty, the bear had a chip out of its ear. It was not a quality piece, in other words. My siblings and I examined it, and I don’t remember which of us said what we were all thinking: “That’s kind of a crummy gift, isn’t it? It’s not even new!”

My mom said, “You never know. This bear might have been that student’s prized possession, and she chose to give it to me.”

Sometimes the price of a gift is no reflection of its value.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is the Barenaked Ladies’ “Elf’s Lament,” in which an elf complains of being overworked and underpaid. Part of the chorus goes:

“Boys and girls, before you wish for what you wish for
There’s a list for who’s been naughty or nice
But consider the price to an elf!”

The song makes me laugh, but it also reminds me of a friend of mine, who told me once that she refuses to buy Barbie dolls for her kids. She couldn’t stand, she said, to support the manufacture of these dolls, made in a factory in China by little girls who would never get to play with one, or by parents who could never afford to buy one for their own daughters.

I do buy Barbies for my girls – they’re swimming in them – but it’s always with a stab of guilt.

Sometimes the price of a gift is no measure of its cost.

“Did you travel when you were pregnant with me?” Mallory asked.

“Um, no, not very much,” I replied. “Why?”

“Well, Mary had to travel when she was pregnant with Jesus,” she said, “and she was very uncomfortable.”

In the pictures, Mary always looks so serene, but I imagine she was uncomfortable – nine months pregnant, riding on a donkey, delivering in a dirty stable. Then there were all the people descending on her and her baby – the shepherds, the wise men; then they had to flee to Egypt – not exactly a relaxing postpartum period. And in the midst of the confusion and the fleeing and the never-ending tasks that come with tending a new baby, there must have been, in the back of her mind (she pondered these things in her heart, and kept them there), the knowledge that her child was not like other children, that something would be expected of him that was beyond comprehension.

What would it be like, to know that about your child? I heard this line in another Christmas song, sung from Mary’s point of view: “You were born for all mankind, but you will always be mine.” I wonder how often Mary thought: Not my baby. Not my son, find someone else. Knowing that she would have to give him up anyway.

Sometimes the value of a gift is all in the giving.


aimee said...

That was wonderful. I have goosebumps. I remember that teddy bear and mom's words.

Thanks for the reminder in this Christmas season.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful blog! I think that I still have that bear too. I don't ever display is anymore, but there is something in me that can't throw it away. I know, SENTIMENTAL!!!


H Noble said...

That was nice Krista. Definitely makes you put your heart and mind back on the reason for Christmas. Thank you.