I had no idea how to shop, of course, so my father asked me to think about what my mother liked. The only thing I could think was that I often saw her cleaning things: washing dishes, cleaning floors and windows, doing laundry. Obviously, she must like cleaning quite a lot.
So I decided to buy her a sponge.
My father balked at this, but I insisted. This is what she likes, this is what I want to buy.
Two events that followed have imprinted themselves forever on my memory, have made me forever grateful to my parents.
|Dad and Mom were young once, too.|
Second, mom loved it. Let me clarify that: she loved the gift, and she thanked me warmly and genuinely, smilingly. And so she gave me a gift as well, the gift of teaching me how to receive the offerings of others with grace; the gift of her love that consecrated my poor offering.
Both of them gave me another gift as well, of course: I had no money to buy the sponge, so I used theirs. I took their money and spent it on what they did not need, on a gift that, coming from another person or from me at a different age, would have been offensive. They gave me the gift of ennobling my shabby token into a gift of great worth.
No year of my life has passed in which I have not thought of that kitchen sponge. It reminds me that no act of kindness towards a child is wasted. It reminds me of my parents' love for me, love that I fumblingly attempt to pass on to my children as I seek to give them the difficult gift of autonomy.
|A gift from my students; it means more to me than words can easily say.|
And my parents, in that Christmas, gave me hope that the poor offerings of my worship - in which I spend what is not really mine in order to give a gift that is not really needed - might really matter, not because they are intrinsically great, but because of the love and grace with which they might be received, and consecrated.