six-year-old children. Boys. At a birthday party. Excedrin headache
But I was smart. I’d moved the
festivities from home sweet home to the local Mexican restaurant that
specialized in such things. Why any business would willingly invite
gaggles of birthday-crazed children into their establishment to spill
drinks, topple chairs, and cover the floor with crumbs was beyond me.
But if they were willing, I’d comply—whatever the price. Better their
floor than mine.
The party coordinator was young
(a prerequisite) and enthusiastic (give her time). She herded the boys
into a far corner of the restaurant that was marked with balloons tied
on every chair—a warning to other diners: Stay back! Way
back! As the boys scrambled onto the chairs (knocking two of
the six to the ground), she handed out party hats, including a huge
sombrero for my son, Carson.
I took my camera position a safe
distance away, and let her do her stuff.
Pin the tail on the donkey.
Beanbag toss. Word scramble (TSROTBRUI = BURRITOS). Untied shoelaces,
runny noses, bobbing cowlicks.
Time to open the gifts. The boys
sat on their knees and leaned across the table, anxious for Carson to
“Open mine first!”
It was then I noticed that one
boy, Matthew, was sitting quietly in his chair. He stuffed his hands
into the pockets of his down vest. His eyes flit between Carson and the
front door of the restaurant. His legs dangled with a rhythm that
quickened with each passing minute.
Paper ripped. Bows were
squashed. One present opened. Two.
Matthew wiggled in his chair.
His head jerked toward the door as customers left and others entered.
He bit his lip.
What was wrong?
It had something to do with the
presents. I counted them. Five guests . . . four presents.
Matthew didn’t have a present to
give Carson! I gave an inward sigh. How could I let him know it didn’t
matter? How could I tell—
stood. All the presents had been opened except his.
It’s okay, Matthew. You
Matthew pulled a dog-chewed
plastic figure of a dinosaur from the pocket of his vest. He handed it
to Carson. “Happy birthday.”
prayed my six-year-old would
show some etiquette far beyond his years.
“Thanks, Matthew,” said Carson.
Matthew’s head snapped toward
the voice of his mother. She’d come in the restaurant unnoticed. She
handed him a beautifully wrapped birthday present for Carson.
The look on Matthew’s face was
worth a hundred gifts. A thousand. His fidgeting stopped. His shoulders
straightened as he handed Carson the gift. “Happy birthday, Carson,” he
Carson opened the present.
“Thanks, Matthew. Thanks for both presents.”
Matthew’s mother looked puzzled. While the boys were eating their cake
and spilling their juice, I let her in on the secret.
I told her about her son’s gift
of the toy dinosaur.
Her eyes filled with proud
tears. As did mine. We felt honored to have witnessed true giving—and
receiving. From two six-year-old boys. Two grimy-faced, scraped-kneed,
heaven-sent little boys.
A boy who’d given all he had.
And another who’d received the gift with grace.
During this Christmas season of
giving and receiving, may we learn by their example.