From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating Brothers and Sisters


The auctioneer pointed at my brother and said, “Sold!” Paul was the proud new owner of a 1989 collector’s edition teddy bear, still sealed in its original box. Paul’s eyes flashed with dollar signs when he picked up his newly purchased item.

Paul has always been interested in antiques, and even though this fluffy white bear wasn’t an antique yet, he anticipated that it would definitely be worth holding onto. The see-through box that preserved the “priceless” creature appeared to be in perfect condition. Because the seal had never been broken, as Paul very well knew, the value of the innocent-looking stuffed animal was significantly boosted.

That was three years ago. Even then, at the tender age of twenty-four, I had not yet outgrown my passion for cute, cuddly, stuffed animals. And this bear was no exception. To Paul, it was merely an investment. To me, however, the plush white fur, the velvet red dress, and the black button nose all seemed to cry out for only one thing—love! I was holding the box on my lap for the long drive home when I suggested, “Let’s open the box.”

Shock and disbelief almost made my older brother run the car off the road. “Are you crazy?” he asked. I knew that money and greed were his motives for keeping the box closed forever. But the more he resisted, the more adamant I became about wanting to release that stuffed bear from her lifelong imprisonment.

Our “Battle of the Bear” had begun. For the next few years, each time I visited his home, that 1989 collector’s edition teddy bear was modestly displayed for all guests to “ooh” and “aah” over. I remained firm in my beliefs that no stuffed animal should be denied the ultimate embrace of human love. We were at an impasse because according to my stubborn brother, that bear would never take one breath of fresh air. Its value came from the fact that it was sealed in its original box. I had no chance of ever changing his mind.

Then hard times fell upon my brother. An unfortunate financial catastrophe surfaced at an inopportune time of year—Christmas. We had always exchanged expensive, lavish gifts. That particular year, however, he sadly explained he would not be able to afford our usual gift exchange. But Christmas is more about giving than receiving, so I went ahead as usual with my holiday shopping, expecting nothing in return.

Christmas morning arrived. We gathered at our parents’ house to exchange presents. It was a happy time, and I delighted in giving gifts to my family. When all the presents were finally unwrapped, Paul disappeared for a moment and then returned with a big, beautifully wrapped box. Paul handed the gift to me, mumbling that it wasn’t much. In disbelief that he got me anything at all, I tore open the gift: it was his collector’s edition teddy bear, still encased in its clear box. He said, “Now you can do with it what you please.”

For some people, greed over receiving a valuable collector’s item might have intervened in the moment that followed, but for me there was never any doubt. I ripped off the lid to the box and, for the first time, let this stuffed animal bask in fresh air and human love. To most, this “collector’s item” is now worth nothing. But to me, my beloved stuffed bear will remain forever priceless.

Sandra Toney

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