“Let’s start the meeting by sharing three things you received for free—free gifts,” said one of the members of our Thursday night small group. “I’ll go first.” While she spoke about the dog she and her husband had been given recently, I listened and pondered. What gifts had I been given for free?
When she finished, Keith told about his parents’ affirmations. Even though they didn’t always understand his interests, they encouraged his curiosity by giving him books, his choice of music, a microscope, the wherewithal for breeding exotic fish. Parents, I thought, that’s it.
I waited for Keith to finish his stories then said. “I’ll go next.” I looked around the room. “I think most of us learn about free gifts from our parents—I know I did.” I was thinking about the five love languages: material things, hugs and kisses, words of affirmation, acts of service, and time.
“First semester senior year of college, my parents gave me the use of their ’63 Ford Falcon station wagon, so I could drive to the high school where I was student teaching every morning and get back in time to catch the end of lunch then get to class. I could have walked the two miles between campus and the high school, but it was nice not to have to do that, especially in bad weather. Also, I was taking a full course load in the afternoon, so time saved was a blessing.” The material gift of the car was a gift of time.
I continued. “Then at the beginning of second semester senior year, there was a fire on our floor of the dorm.” It was a Friday night, and I was studying in my room. “I remembered to shut my door before evacuating, so though the fire charred the door a bit, everything in my room was okay. Except for water and smoke.” The rooms on the floor were a mess—chunks of ceiling tile and anything left on the floor floated in two-three inches of water. Smoke settled on everything exposed and seeped into bedding, closets, and bureau drawers.
“I called my parents on Saturday morning to tell them everything and everybody was okay. Three hours later, they arrived in work clothes, carrying buckets and cleaning supplies.” My parents—pictured here in their version of Grant Wood’s American Gothic—gave their service and the most valuable thing they had: time.” Three free gifts: the car, service, and time. I turned to Keith, and we smiled.
All free gifts.
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