“This is for you,” Andrea said in a shy voice as she presented to me a grocery bag full of something. “If you don’t want it you can give it to someone else,” she added. Of course I had to appreciate the gift after that!
I peered inside the bag and found it full of paper chains. This really was a gift, as I knew it had taken a lot of time and love to make a very long chain and then give it away. Andrea later told me that her mom had bought the paper and they used almost all of it for the chain. The strips were cut by hand and stapled together, requiring a significant amount of time. I felt honored by this gift and hung it up in our classroom.
Another scenario: Joel proudly handed a gift bag to me. I pulled out a jar of cookie mix and a sandwich bag containing an obviously student-made, unknown, wooden object. Thankfully, Joel immediately told me, “It’s a desk! See, here’s a hole where you can hang it up.” This desk now has a place of honor on my desk. It is not a beautiful gift, made of chunks of wood hot-glued onto a base, with a little hole drilled in it, but it is a special present, made by a student for his teacher.
“You can have this,” two students said as they gave me their art projects. “I made this for you,” –something made of a bunch of rubber bands. “I knitted this for you,” and I was given a long, narrow thing made of yarn. It’s a scarf and I’m supposed to wear it! I did.
Filling up the whole front of my desk I have two large posters, a painting, a fish made of foam, spruce tree sprigs, crunchy brown leaves, and small red berries. Today two of the girls said, “Here!” and wanted to give me some chunks of the ice melt they collected at recess!
I do appreciate all of these gifts, and the thought behind them. I see my students wanting to give something to their teacher and showing their love as they give of their time or share their treasures. (One of my teacher friends was given a partially used container of dental floss. Her student handed it to her, and said, “For your teeth!”)
One of our all-school songs for the Christmas program was “Christmas Offering” and as a school group we talked about the gift that our program could be. I discussed this further with my class, how doing a good job could be a nice gift to God, and how we could honor Him with our performance.
What kind of gifts do we want to give to God? I had a gift bag with various gifts in it and as I pulled the gifts from the bag we thought about the value of the item. “Here’s a gift! Would this be good? Would you like to receive a gift like this?”
Oh, no, that one is trash! Trash would not be a nice gift.
“Well, what about this?” “Check out this gift! Would this be good?”
No, these are dead batteries.
“Would we want to give dead batteries to God?”
“Let’s see what else we have.” There were some objects that would make nice gifts. We thought about these gifts and reflected on trash, dead batteries, and nice objects. The children referred to this in the days leading up to the program. “Do you want to give God dead batteries?” “Don’t be a trashy gift!” “Do your best so you give God a nice gift!”
We also talked about what God wants from us for a gift. He wants us. He wants our love. Today the students made little presents that say, “To God” and inside the package drew what they would give to God. Many of them drew themselves or wrote their names, and several added ‘Love’ to the gift.
This challenges me to think, too, what kind of gifts am I giving to God? In my teaching, in my responses to and interactions with my students and co-workers, am I giving my best gifts, or am I giving trash or dead batteries?
CONTRIBUTOR: Arlene Birt