Gifts from the Heart

It was a week filled with more toys than I had ever seen in my life. Working at a children’s hospital, I was in awe of generosity from the community. So many people came through our doors and I wanted to be a gracious host to them all, but the sheer magnitude of people bringing toys was overwhelming. There were former patients’ families, school clubs, church groups, and other community members that rallied together to bring cheer to the kids who would be spending the holidays in a hospital. It was heartwarming to know that people continued to come year after year to give back.

In the midst of a chaotic day, I found myself going through the motions. My shoulders were sore from lifting boxes and my legs were tired from carrying donations. I hadn’t had a chance to have lunch yet so I was desperately waiting for a good time to break. Then an older gentleman walked into our office and wanted to make a donation. He pulled out a box and, trying to make conversation, I asked what was in the box. He beamed with pride and said it was a stamp collection. I instantly stopped in my tracks.

We’ve had incredible donations of the latest trending toy, the “it” doll, and some of the coolest gadgets a kid could have. But, it was the stamp collection that blew me away. This man was humble and kind, giving us something he treasured and hoped would bring joy to the kids. It reminded me of the stamps my dad had collected, and when I was a kid, we would spread out the stamps on the maroon carpet of my grandparents’ living room and sort the stamps by dates and themes.

The donor had no idea how moved I was by his gesture, but I carried his message with me. The holidays can bring out the frustration of trying to please everyone and the stress of spending too much money on gifts. This man centered my spirit and reminded me that this season is about giving what you have, whether it’s special time spent together, a meaningful gift, or a piece of your heart. It doesn’t have to be the top toy of the year to reach the smile of a child. It doesn’t have to be the best new technology to touch the heart of a friend. It’s about sharing your joy with others.

I was recently listening to a podcast by Caroline Hobby as she interviewed Hannah Mooney, former Miss Arkansas and the wife of country music star Shay, of the duo Dan and Shay. Hannah was talking about how she was in beauty pageants and she was required to perform a talent for the judges in 90 seconds. She then said something that I loved; she said that some people have talents that can’t be performed. Hannah went on to explain that you might be a sweetheart, and that’s a wonderful thing that you can’t show on stage. I appreciated this message because giving of our gifts does not mean it has to be wrapped in a bow.

As December wraps up and I start reflecting on the past year, I think about how we are called to give of ourselves, not always tangible things, but really give our heart and soul to this beautiful life we have been given. For one man, it was giving of something that brought him joy, a feeling he hoped to pass on to others. Knowing that other people would smile because of what he offered was a gift itself. For Hannah, it was giving the message that talent doesn’t need to be confined to a box you don’t fit in. You can be a kind person, and that alone is a gift to this world.

You have gifts that only you can offer. You are unique and special, and your talents are needed in this world, whatever they may be. May you shine your light bright today, and always.