Have you ever been given a gift that you were grateful for in the moment, but you more fully appreciated as time went by?
That's what the following short story is about. As my parents would say (quoting the movie Christmas Vacation), "It's the gift that keeps on giving all year long." And while that quote is taken from a humorous context, I think some seemingly simple gifts really do keep on giving and giving and giving. It is my hope that this story is another way for a gift given to me once upon a time to be poured out to you, dear readers.
While this short story I wrote is fictional, it's inspired by some elements of my own life. I'll let you know what's fact and fiction after I conclude this three-part short story on Wednesday. For now, I'll just share my brief dedication:
In memory of Jim Worthen. Only the Lord knows how much of your heart went into that jar of pennies, but I'll be forever grateful for the kindness you showed me.
By Amber Stokes
By Amber Stokes
If you and I were there to see the jar when it sat on the shelf in the cellar, neither of us would come to the conclusion that it would one day be a symbol of hope. After all, one does not normally equate canned rutabaga with anything beautiful – or anything much at all. But once the rutabagas were removed, and the jar was washed inside and out, you might have seen a glimmer of its destiny in the way the sunlight poured through it as it dried on the kitchen windowsill.
The jar was left there to dry after the announcement that Randy was drafted. As soon as Alice came back from church that Sunday, she knew she needed the jar for something more important than rutabagas. (Mind you, some people might consider rutabagas important. But Alice was not one of those people.) If we looked closely, we would have seen a few tears reflecting the sunlight as they traversed her weathered and wrinkled face that Sunday afternoon. Randy reminded her so much of the grandson she had lost during the Korean War. That was almost twenty years earlier, back in 1952.
After her only grandson’s passing, Alice had started bringing candy to church in the pockets of her large purple coat with the lacy trim. Randy and his family sat in the pew in front of her. Sometimes the only smile she could find in those weeks and months after losing Mark was when she saw Randy’s smile as she held out the candy in her small palm.
Of course, Randy was a young man by this time in 1971. He didn’t need candy anymore. And as much as he appreciated Alice’s kindness through his growing-up years, he had been a bit preoccupied at church that day. He forgot to give Alice a hug like he always did after the service.
But don’t worry – Alice was not the kind of woman to hold such a thing against a young man consumed with thoughts of war and leaving home and horrors he couldn’t even imagine yet. Instead, she had returned to her little trailer and prepared the jar for its new purpose.
To Be Continued...