When I was just 14 years old I received the best Christmas gift ever. It wasn’t the biggest gift ever, I received a brand-new bed one year. It wasn’t the most expensive gift ever, I’d been given a limited-edition porcelain doll one Christmas. However, in all the years since that Christmas, I’ve never received another gift like it, and I never will.
My oldest niece gave me the gift that changed my outlook on Christmas forever. She was around seven at the time. We were having a late Christmas celebration with my older, half-sister’s family. I can still remember looking around at the piles of presents and noticing my pile wasn’t as big as others’ in the house, including my twin sister’s.
When it came time to open the gift my niece got me, I ripped the paper off the small item to find a grow-your-own towel inside. This was back when grow-your-own towels first came out. I had no idea how much she’d paid for it, but I knew it was a stupid, small gift that wasn’t even something I’d like. According to the cover, it had dinosaurs on the it.
I remember sitting on the floor, staring at the gift and internally moaning about getting such a worthless gift. My niece was sitting just a few feet away from me when I started opening the present. She came crawling over to me and I will never forget the look on her face. Her little, dark brown eyes were lit up with excitement and happiness.
“Do you like it Auntie?” She asked me with happiness. “I picked it out and bought it with my own money.”
While staring at her happy little face I learned one of the most important lessons in life. I was a selfish person who only looked at the size and cost of gifts. To me it was the amount, not the thought that counted. Feelings of shame and gratitude both rose up in me. For the first time in my life I realized that it wasn’t the gift that mattered – it was the thought that counted. My niece had spent what little money she received as an allowance on me. That was a pretty humbling moment.
Swallowing hard, I hugged her to me and thanked her for the gift. I said I loved it and in that moment, I did. It was a gift that taught me a valuable lesson.
Nearly 24 years later I still have that towel in my linen closet. The dinosaurs have all faded away. It even has a hole in it. But I won’t throw it away because every time I see that well-used towel I think about that long ago Christmas and the look on my niece’s face, and I smile. How silly to think that a small washcloth could have such a lasting impact, yet it does.
Thank you, Danny! Thanks for teaching me a lesson that I’ll forever treasure. That was the best Christmas gift ever!