February 27, 2016

An Undeserved Gift

, principal, Bentonville Seventh-day Adventist School, Arkansas

The doorbell rang as I prepared supper this past Feb. 14.

It was an expected and welcome interruption from Pat’s husband. Pat embroiders logos for student uniforms at the small Seventh-day Adventist elementary school where I serve as principal in northwest Arkansas.

The man stood at the door alone, a bag and gift box in one hand, a squirmy little dog in the other.

He handed me the bag of shirts, but I wasn’t sure what to do with the extended gift box. Certainly the gift couldn’t be intended for me, the customer. I took the bag and asked about the box still being held out to me.

“What is in the box? Am I supposed to take that, too?” I asked.

“Well, we will see,” he said, his voice trailing off for a moment. “Have you ever heard of Este Lauder Youth Dew perfume?”

I didn’t understand what he was saying. His words seemed awkward and forced.

He repeated himself and then instructed me to open the box.

It all seemed so strange. I wondered why the man dropping off my uniform shirts was trying to show me some perfume.

Elizabeth Fresse holding her unepxected gift of Este Lauder Youth Dew perfume.

After the lid came off, I pried the bottle out of its place and held it to my nose. It obviously was an expensive gift. Still not sure what the catch was, or if he was trying to sell me something, I tried to portray delight in the scent without seeming overly excited.

“What is this for?” I said.

He stood still for a second, looked around. His mouth twitched. He strained his neck slightly before speaking.

“I lost Pat on Wednesday,” he said, whispering.

It was all he could say as his voice choked with emotion.

“I am so, so sorry,” I said. But before I could say anything more, he began speaking again.

“This was going to be her Valentine’s gift.”

The weight and honor of what this meant overwhelmed me. I offered him a hug.

“I am so sorry. That’s so hard,” I said. There are no words at times like these, so I simply waited, encouraging him to share more.

Yes, it was the cancer, he said. Pat had been on hospice for only five days, and now she was gone.

Pat, who had done embroidery work for the school for several years, had confided earlier that she was ill with cancer. But the last I had heard, she was feeling fine and the treatments had significantly helped.

Now her husband told me that he would continue the business, at least for now, so the school could still contact him with work. He said his wife had passed away on Wednesday, he had finished the shirts on Friday, and today, on Sunday, a day when the world celebrates love, he and the little dog had just needed to get out of the house.

So here they were at my house, delivering shirts and also his precious Valentine’s gift that could now never be given to his wife.

I thanked him again for the gift. He turned and walked away.

Tears brimmed in my eyes as I told my husband about what had just taken place.

“What did I do to deserve the honor of receiving this extravagant gift intended for his beloved?” I asked.“Why me?”

The answer is that I had done nothing really — nothing that is, except have a positive relationship with his wife. Yes, I’d taken an interest in her life, her health, and their family. I’d befriended them. I’d shared smiles and words of encouragement and thankfulness for their hard work on our school’s behalf. But really, it was nothing worthy of receiving such an honor — nothing worthy of receiving Pat’s Valentine.

As I have continued to reflect on this most unexpected and unusual gift, my mind has begun to look ahead to another day, a day not too far away, when I will hear a trumpet sound instead of a doorbell ring. Although I don’t know when the exact hour will be, I know He is coming soon, and I will go quickly — for it is my Lord! He will be waiting for me, and we will ascend to heaven together.

On that glorious day, Jesus will extend extravagant gifts to me — the gift of eternal life, of a home in paradise, and of spending forever with Him. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV).

Overwhelmed at the great honor, I’ll exclaim: “I don’t deserve this! What have I done to warrant such a costly gift — something so special, so glorious, so amazing? Surely these can’t be meant for me!”

Just like my interaction with the man from the embroidery shop, I will once again recognize that I’ve done nothing — nothing that is except seek to have a relationship with God’s beloved Son.

However simple a relationship may seem, we will discover that this relationship with Jesus is the only thing that really matters. How is your relationship with Him today?