How many gifts do you think you received throughout your childhood?
The number would undoubtedly vary from person to person. But it’s probably reasonable to say we all received more than a few in our day.
Now for a couple of follow-up questions: How many of those gifts do you still have in your possession? And how many do you still utilize today?
As I reflect back over my own childhood, the number of gifts I received from family and friends is inestimable. And while I don’t remember the vast majority of them, there are a few that immediately come to mind as being especially meaningful at the time.
I remember receiving a cowboy hat from my Aunt Linda when I was about 3 years old. I wore that hat early and often as my cousins and I pretended to be cowboys.
During the height of the Chicago Bulls championship runs, there was nothing I wanted more than a Chicago Bulls winter coat. I can still remember rounding the corner and seeing that beautiful black and red coat my parents had bought me laid out under the tree. I literally wore the seams out of that coat.
Every year at Christmas and my birthday, my grandma and grandpa would send me a card with a check for $40. I know many people say money is an impersonal gift, but I always looked forward to those cards and checks. I can’t tell you one thing I bought with that money, but I can clearly remember how it felt to hold it in my hands. If for only a short period of time, I felt like the richest kid in the world.
Each of these three gifts were extremely precious to me in the moment. To varying degrees and in various ways, they added value to my life. But as meaningful and valuable as they were, they each had an expiration date, so to speak.
Eventually, I grew out of the cowboy hat, the thread and fabric of the coat began to break down and the money was spent. With very few exceptions, the same could be said for almost every gift I’ve ever received. I feel fairly confident the same is true for all of us. Stuff is great, but it doesn’t last forever.
There is one gift, however, that keeps on giving. No, it’s not a subscription to the jelly of the month club. The gift that keeps on giving is knowledge. Rarely, if ever, do I look back and lament material things I wasn’t given, but I often wish I knew things. I wish I knew how to repair an engine, how to install a light above my kitchen table (so does my wife) or how to knit a sweater.
At the same time, I’m grateful for those who taught me how to read, how to write a sermon and how to speak in public. They may not have seemed like gifts when they were given, but they continue to pay dividends today. And if used wisely, these gifts can be passed on for generations to come.
I recently read a quote that I found inspiring and challenging. It read, “Don’t buy me everything you wish you could have had growing up; teach me everything you wish you would have known.” Or as the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Whether it be passing on the faith and hope in Jesus, character qualities, academic understanding or practical skills and abilities, we each have precious gifts to offer the next generation.
As wonderful, precious and at times necessary as material gifts can be, their value is fleeting. It is so easy to lose sight of this truth in our materialistic world where we are constantly inundated with slick marketing and messaging informing us of all of the things we “need” in order to live our best life.
The best gifts, however, are the time, energy and effort spent passing on understanding and knowledge that continues to bear fruit and produce a return for years to come. May we continually seek to give the gifts that keep on giving.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].