I had a humbling experience the other day.
My husband and I were donating some clothing and household items we no longer needed to a local thrift shop, since our preferred place to donate was closed. As we were unloading and carrying boxes into the shop, a man held the door open for us. I thanked him, and gave him a friendly smile as I would any other human being. I was impressed with his kindness to stay there a few minutes longer and help us out.
After we were done carrying in a few boxes and headed back to the van I thanked him, said have a nice day, and smiled, then started to walk back to our van.
The man seemed to be hesitating a little, then approached me. He held out his hand and presented me with a lovely pair of earrings. He said that he had just purchased them in the shop and thought they were special because he is a jewelry maker himself. He went on to explain how the long parts of the earrings were made from porcupine quills. He seemed very proud of them as if he had made them himself. To him they were very special. He said he wanted me to have them.
I will admit in that moment it felt a little awkward. Taking a gift from a total stranger is not something I come across every day. I also have another confession … as I stood there face to face with this man, I noticed that he appeared homeless.
Now please, do not judge me, I was not judging him. I did not even notice as he was opening the door for us that he had any sort of appearance other than that of a fellow human being. However, after taking a longer look he had earmarks of someone who had it rough. Being a person myself who grew up in a rougher neighborhood you learn what these earmarks are quickly.
In that moment I accepted the gift, and smiled brightly because I was happily surprised, I also loved learning a little more about the quills, and his own jewelry making. The earrings are also very beautiful!
Granted the conversation only lasted a hot minute, but in that short time I could tell he was as happy to give the earrings to me, as I was to be surprised with an unexpected gift.
It was not until after we had pulled away that my brain began to go in twisty directions. At first my husband and I just discussed how cool, and how random that was. Then I started to feel guilty. Maybe I should have offered a few dollars to the man. The earrings clearly cost him some of his own money. Even if he had not paid for them, or made them himself and put the price tag on them himself, maybe he could have used a few dollars for a meal. Maybe he needed a ride somewhere. Where was he staying? Was he going to be okay??? All these things racing through my head like a lightening bolt. I was afraid I did not do the right thing, by doing nothing at all.
After my brain stopped going toward that anxiety driven direction I had a chance to reflect. I put myself in the other person’s shoes. Giving a gift should not cause the receiver to feel stress, or guilt. When I give a gift, I do so to bring joy to the receiver, and human nature dictates that we as a giver also receive joy from their happiness. Why would I want to take that from a fellow human by stripping his good deed down to him wanting or needing something from me?
Although for a moment my tendency was to have my husband turn the van around and go back to see if this man could use a little help, I just let things be. I let him be joyful that he had done a good thing, with no anticipation of receiving in return, and I embraced my unexpected gift. I do not know why I ever thought he needed anything from me in return. He has given me a greater gift, and I am humbled.
These beautiful earrings may only be marked $3.99, but to me they are priceless.
Thank you kind stranger, your gift will be cherished always.
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