Katherine’s Gift

When I was growing up, I don’t remember my parents talking about money. Maybe they did; maybe they didn’t. If we had it, or if we didn’t, I never knew. Like the rest of the kids growing up in Downey, California, we were busy playing outside until the street lights came on and our fun was delayed until tomorrow.

As poor as my memory is, you would think I’d spent my roaring twenties on drugs, but, as it turns out, I simply have a bad memory. One of my earliest memories is receiving a used, blue boy’s bike. I think the “special occasion” was that one of the neighborhood boys outgrew it. (My Dad was, and will always be, an aficionado at finding a great second-hand deal.)

I didn’t know how to ride a bike, and this one didn’t have training wheels, so I learned the old fashioned way – with my Dad holding the back of my seat, running up and down the sidewalk with me. I will always remember that used bike and falling into my neighbor’s yards as I learned to ride it.

If my Dad purchased the bike from the neighbor, or if it was free, I don’t know, nor do I care to. I’ll never ask. What a gift costs is irrelevant. When I was a single digit old, every time I received a gift, I could feel my parents looking at me. We had practiced this moment a thousand times. I knew exactly what to do and my etiquette referees watched closely.

There were two ways to get busted: 1) be unappreciative, or 2) don’t say THANK YOU.

Learning to appreciate everything I received taught my little kid brain I didn’t deserve anything; this caused each gift to truly be a gift. With this perspective, saying “thank you” came naturally. Looking back on my life, and despite my less-than-reliable memory, I could fill up a book with all of the many undeserved gifts I’ve received.

This past week, my little sister sent me and some of my family members the picture you see at the top of this blog – two packets of C&H sugar and three packets of black pepper.

How would you react if you received THIS as a gift?

My late grandmother’s friend has lived in a downtown Los Angeles convalescent home for as long as I can remember (literally). She has no living relatives and all of her friends have passed on. The last time I saw her was a year or so ago – I had picked her up, somehow managed her wheelchair into my trunk, and was driving her to spend a holiday dinner with my family.

She, like usual, was telling me how she “used to be a looker in her day“. It’s her favorite subject, so, of course, we spent hours on it.

Ninety year old Katherine sent this gift to my sister and my sister sent me a picture. When she explained the picture, I failed miserably at 1) feeling any sort of appreciation on behalf of my sister or 2) wondering if my sister had said THANK YOU. I, instead, cried.

Such a simple gift brought tears to my eyes.

Katherine has nothing, but it didn’t stop her from wanting to give my sweet little sister a gift. Motivated to give something, she found what she had access to – two packets of C&H sugar and three packets of black pepper – and sent it. I will never, ever, forget Katherine’s Gift and I will try to give as generously as her.

My hope for you is that you will remember Katherine’s Gift and live differently.


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