As a little girl around Ryan's age, one day on her day off mom got us dressed to go to the hospital. That's right... my mom, who worked nights at St. Anthony's in Oklahoma City got us dressed and took me to the hospital. She worked hard, and on the days she was to be home, there were precious few things that would take her back downtown to saint's.
She explained that we were visiting someone she loved, who had been very nice to her. As a single mom with a much less than supportive ex, friends were mostly from work. There just wasn't time for much friend-making outside work. She told me that this lady was a nun, one who had been a patient of hers. She was very sick, and she wanted to check on her and take me to meet her.
Sister Heinley was a nun in the Order of Saint Francis that used to somewhat run the hospital. I don't remember at all what the illness was, but I do remember walking through the tunnel from the parking garage wondering if she'd look like the nuns in The Sound of Music.
We made it to the room, and there she was, in her hospital bed. There were flowers and cards here and there, and mother introduced us. I remember, from this point, learning what generosity was.
I couldn't pick her out of a lineup, but I recall her warmth, her smile, and the way you instantly were part of her world, like you'd been there all along. She pointed to a small wrapped box on the windowsill. She said, "That's just for you."
After a quick glance at mother to ask if she was serious, and if it was okay, mom told me to go over and take it. Honestly, I'd never met someone and in the first two minutes they had a gift. Just for me.
There was only one box. I opened it, and this little guy stared back.
This guy has been with me through about sixteen moves since that day in the mid-eighties when he was given to me. It's just a simple candle holder, a couple inches tall. Nothing fancy or complex. The real reason he's hung around has nothing to do with his aesthetics or value.
Sister Heinley, Mom told me on the way home, loved giving. And since she was ill and unable to buy things or even make them to give people, especially children, the other sisters would make sure she had things in her room to give away. That's right. Instead of bringing her things she'd like for her to have, they brought her things so that she could give them away.
Giving gave her such joy that being able to give was the best gift she could receive.
As a child, it was amazing that she immediately thought I was special enough to warrant a gift. The main reason I kept this guy so long was started there. But now, as I'm the mama in charge of gifts for the world, this guy stays in my kitchen to remind me that this ability I have... to give even a jar of apple butter to a teacher... is a most amazing gift.
And you never know what impact a little gift might make on a life.
Thanks be to God for Sister Heinley, who I'm sure is rejoicing in heaven this Christmas... and of course, always the most thanks to and for the Giver himself.