96: Precious Gifts

96: Precious Gifts

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

Precious Gifts

The only gift is a portion of thyself.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I enjoyed playground duty when I worked at an elementary school in Southern California. Children often came up to me for a hug or to hold my hand and walk with me. One day I noticed a little girl leaning against the building during recess sucking on her finger. When I looked at her, she would look down or turn her head. I made a point of smiling at her every day. Eventually I won her trust and she held my hand when I reached out to her.

Amelia was quiet. I learned she was new to this country and still learning the language. She communicated her feelings with her big brown eyes. And she was shy. She watched children hug me, but holding my hand was her limit. I was satisfied that at least she was no longer leaning against the wall during recess.

On the last day of school she was waiting for me at the playground. She stood smiling and with one arm behind her back. She looked at me and crooked her finger for me to come closer. I knelt in front of her. She brought her arm from behind her and held out a small glass dog.

“This is for you,” she said. I noticed a small chip on the right ear of the glass dog, which only made it more precious. When I thanked her, she gave me another precious gift. A hug. Then she ran off to play with the other children.

I transferred to another school the next year, so I never saw Amelia again. The glass dog had a special place in the china closet. Every time I saw it, I thought about Amelia and felt her hug.

When we moved from Southern California to Northern California several years later, I didn’t notice the glass dog was missing until long after I finished unpacking. Apparently it was left in a box that was thrown out. I was left with only the memory of Amelia’s gift.

A few years later, on my way out of town to attend a lecture, I stopped at a small antique shop. I was looking at a display of glass figurines and thought about the little glass dog. I described it to the storeowner and asked if she had ever seen one like it. She told me they were vintage carnival prizes and had seen something similar in a box she was unpacking before I came into the store. She asked me to wait while she got it.

She returned holding a glass dog like the one I had lost. Tears filled my eyes. I held it and thought about that shy little girl who finally gave me a hug. When I looked more closely, I saw a small chip on the right ear. I knew I held the glass dog Amelia had given me.

I pulled out my wallet and the storeowner shook her head. “You can have it. It’s not a saleable item because of the chip.” I smiled. That chip was the very thing that made it priceless to me. I clutched the glass dog to my chest and thanked her, amazed at the circumstances that brought the glass dog back to me. I tucked the tissue-wrapped glass dog into my tote.

Traffic was light so I arrived at the lecture hall early enough to sit and read more of the speaker’s latest book, which I had brought along to be signed. A short time later, a young woman sat down next to me. We started talking and discovered we both had lived in the same area in Southern California during the same period of time. I no longer worked in education, but she had recently become an elementary school teacher. We also shared a common interest in antiques.

I told her the story about the glass dog and how thrilled I was to be reunited with it. I unwrapped it to show her. She picked it up, saw the chip and blinked back tears.

“Why are you crying?” I asked. She dabbed her eyes and looked at me.

“I was that little girl who gave you the dog. My name is Amelia.”

I looked into her dark eyes as she spoke and saw the little girl I remembered. A hint of shyness remained in her smile.

She leaned back in her seat and recalled that time in her childhood. “I had a hard time adjusting to school and learning English when we came here from Mexico. You were the first person at school who made me feel loved.”

She pointed at the glass dog. “My older brother won that at a carnival. It was sitting on the windowsill in our living room. I took it when I left for school on the last day to give to you. I pushed it up the sleeve of my sweater so my brother wouldn’t see me carry it out of the house. It slid out and dropped onto the sidewalk on my way to school, but I didn’t notice that the ear chipped.”

We talked about the incredible coincidences that had taken place within the last few hours. But I wondered if they were mere coincidences or part of a well-orchestrated plan by a higher power to remind two people of the precious gifts they had given each other.

~L.A. Kennedy

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