Cheap jewelry, however, is worse than no jewelry at all, and there are very few things in life than are worse than no jewelry at all.—Jill Conner Browne, Sweet Potato Queen
I ripped into the pretty paper. The envelope read: To Brandi. Casting the shiny bow aside, I unwrapped a chic piece of jewelry from none other than my little Pinterest Fashionista sister Ava. I fastened the necklace around my neck then read the card.
Dear Bran, I bought you this piece of jewelry. It reminded me of you. Confession: I really wanted it so badly. I wanted you to have it more. I love you, Ava.
She’s always been that way. A great gift giver.
In fact, she is a master at putting others before herself. She gives generously of her time and resources. From the heart. Her best gift is a listening ear. A built-in best friend.
Her birthday was approaching and, for once, I wanted to give as well as she did. Matching her keen sense of style and generosity would be no easy task. What if I was to imagine the item I wanted most in the world and rather than acquire it for myself, render it to Ava’s closet instead? Of course, I only had fashion in mind, initially.
Pondering this concept, my thoughts turned toward intangibles and how I give to others in my life. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t ever considered giving things like love, patience, or forgiveness before. You know, without strings. To the unlovable. I had.
I had thought of those things. I had sung about them at church.
But what if.
What if I actually did apply the theoretical even when I didn’t feel like it?
I mean, I have no problem whatsoever accepting God’s unconditional love. The agape kind. Or his mercy and forgiveness. In theory, I wholeheartedly agree that these are virtues I must impart to others.
Using a word like impart makes this seem so feasible. Like I could illustrate a color-coded chart with the percentages of mercy I’ve imparted to Relationship X, Y, and Z, then present it to some Board of Directors for a vote of confidence in my goodness.
But, without fail, when I actually am confronted with, say, a real jerk, I default to thinking that warrants my conviction that this jerk deserves to be shunned, scolded, reprimanded, and/or called into order by sheer coldness. I vow to punish them with formality and legalism for breaking the laws of kindness. Don’t they know the Golden Rule? I feel justified in helping them to understand how they’ve wounded me; therefore, I will now be just like them. An eye for an eye. Isn’t that in the Bible somewhere?
I never bother to actually consider that maybe the jerk has a reason for morphing into a horrible person who, by default, impales others with his repugnant disposition. Maybe the jerk had a terrible childhood or his goldfish just died or something.
Something doesn’t sit right about my recently adopted eye for an eye doctrine. Now I feel like I’m the jerk. I’m somewhat conflicted. Why should I have to go the extra mile for someone who has not treated me the way I want to be treated? This is not right. Naturally, my human nature demands justice for them, but mercy for me. I’m on MY SIDE.
I feel my backbone stiffening.
I can do this. I’ll start by just allowing that tension to be released from that place inside that causes me to wonder whether I might have an organ called stubbornness.
Surely, there’s some common ground. Okay, maybe not. I’ll be a good giver anyway. I decide to turn over a new leaf. Starting tomorrow, I’m gonna give kindness like Ava gives jewelry. What I wanted for myself, I’ll just give away freely without any pre-conceived expectations. Surely I can find a jerk somewhere on whom I may practice my new philosophy.
Twelve Hours Later.
Pulling into work I have an Aha! moment when I park next to the office jerk’s car. This miser is a human kindness lab practical waiting to happen. I can’t wait for the elevator to stop at my floor.
Good morning, I say, to the office jerk. Nothing. Sneer. Though it didn’t start out that way, my bubbly smile is now only skin deep because I’m inwardly feeling nauseous. Note: the office jerk hates morning people. I’m a morning person.
I force myself to do this day after day. Would you like some coffee? I SO want to complete that sentence with the words Office Jerk. But I don’t.
Finally, on day fifteen of my experiment the office jerk relents. Okay.
The coffee makes way for conversation. Minimal at first, but after time things begin to change like the light of day as the sun peeks over the horizon. Somewhat light at first, then super bright!
What’s this? The jerk is smiling. I believe I actually like the jerk.
One afternoon during the now traditional coffee time with the FORMER jerk and some other staff my phone rings. It’s Ava.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE SNOW BOOTS!!! I LOVE THEM!!
My little Pinterest Fashionista had no idea how much she had impacted the world for good by being a good gift giver. I thought it was about time that I revealed the entire story. We had a long chat. About the jerk. About the furry snow boots that I so wanted for myself. About everything.
It is much easier to sacrificially give tangibles than intangibles, but Ava’s sacrificial gift spurred me to remember the truth in ancient words that challenge the hungry soul: If you love only those who love you, what reward will you get?
Now, every time I wear that necklace, I’ll remember Ava’s gift and what it did for a jerk like me.
Happy Valentines Day, Dear Reader, may you love God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength and regardless of life’s circumstances, may you love your neighbor as yourself.
Read Brandi’s column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper. Follow Brandi on Twitter @BrandiChambless