24: Impractically Perfect

24: Impractically Perfect

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Impractically Perfect

We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

~Albert Schweitzer

I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas. The chronic illness I suffered from took the joy out of what should have been a happy time, I was feeling discouraged and depressed. I didn’t have the physical or mental energy to appreciate anything about the holiday season.

A few weeks before Christmas, our neighbor Teri was driving down our street on her way home. When she saw me out in the front yard, she stopped her van in the middle of the road to talk. Teri was a pastor’s wife and our young sons were best friends. She was on a tight budget like we were and had just returned from shopping at yard sales.

“I bought you a Christmas present,” she announced, with a big grin and twinkling eyes. “It’s not new,” she warned me. “But it’s clean. I found it at my friend’s yard sale.” It was obvious Teri was pleased with her purchase. “I really couldn’t afford to spend the money,” she admitted, “but I had to buy it because it’s something you’ve been wanting. I’ll bring it over when I get it wrapped.”

I was caught off guard by what Teri said. I never expected a present from Teri. And for the life of me I couldn’t imagine what it might be. How could she know what I wanted, anyway, when I didn’t know myself? With all my health issues, I had become too discouraged to even care about wanting anything.

The next day, Teri came to our front door with the gift. It was wrapped in bright paper, tied with shiny ribbon and topped with a big bow. Teri made me promise to wait until Christmas to open it. As she handed it to me, I felt a twinge of excitement.

When I brought the package in the house, I tried to picture its contents. By the size and weight of the box, I thought it might be a blanket. Did I ever say I wanted a blanket? I didn’t think so. What in the world had I told her I wanted?

It’s amazing what a little suspense did to my outlook. I couldn’t stop thinking about what might be in the box. Sitting there on the floor under the Christmas tree, the package drew me to it like a moth to a light bulb. Every so often, when no one was looking, I would pick it up, shake it back and forth and try to guess what was inside. Why did I keep thinking of a blanket?

Before I knew it, my pessimistic attitude began to change. With something to distract me from my health problems, life didn’t seem quite so difficult or dreary. Teri’s thoughtful gesture was such an encouragement to me. I felt happier than I had in a very long time.

Christmas morning arrived and with it much anticipation. Even so, I was not convinced that Teri could have known what I wanted. Yet, she seemed so certain, it made me want to believe it was true. The excitement and expectation that had been stirred up in me kept that hope alive.

While we were opening our presents, the phone rang. It was Teri. She wanted to know if I liked her gift. I told Teri she would have to be patient. So important had her gift become to my optimistic state of mind that, weeks before, I made the decision to wait and open it last.

After all the other presents had been unwrapped, I picked up her package. As anxious as I was to know what was in the box, I wanted to savor the moment. I took my time as I removed the bow, loosened the ribbon and pulled off each piece of the tape. I slipped off the wrapping paper, folded it up and set it down next to me on the couch. Then I slowly lifted off the lid and peeled back the tissue paper. What I saw took my breath away! Inside the box was a stunning, snow white, rabbit fur jacket. And when I put it on, it fit me like a glove. Teri was right. It was exactly what I wanted.

Instantly, the picture of a gray rabbit fur jacket I once owned and loved flashed into my mind. A gift from a long forgotten boyfriend, it had been years since I had disposed of it after it wore out. But there was something glamorous about a fur jacket that made me feel like a movie star — young, invincible and fabulous. I longed for the way that jacket made me feel.

Though I did not recall, and usually didn’t share such trivial desires with anyone, I must have told Teri about it. That Teri remembered what I told her about my old gray jacket and understood how much it meant to me, made me cherish her friendship more than ever.

The fur jacket Teri gave me was a frivolous thing for someone struggling to make ends meet and totally impractical in the hot desert climate where I live. But sometimes something frivolous is just what you need. Like balm to chapped and weathered hands, it can soothe the soul. It can kindle feelings of hope. Teri knew that. And she was willing to sacrifice so I would experience that magical feeling again.

Years have passed since that Christmas and many things have changed. Teri and her family moved away. Our boys have grown into fine young men. I am at the age when gray hair and wrinkles are my new normal. I will never again be young or feel invincible. But every time I put that jacket on... I feel fabulous!

~RoseAnn Faulkner

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