For weeks, she told me she was getting me a present.
“You don’t have to,” I told her. “I’d rather you didn’t, really. Spending my day with you is gift enough!”
“It’s a special present,” she said. “I’m working on it.”
Before writing full time, I was a para-educator. Those days before winter break, I helped her and the other kindergarteners add glitter to homemade wrapping-paper, carefully pen their names on packages, and hot-glue buttons to the snowmen they painted themselves. I also sat with her every day, just the two of us, going over the letters that struggled to take root in her mind. We celebrated every correct letter sound she could produce, added stickers to her thin-as-sparrow-wing hands when she tried her best (and she nearly always did), and sang the alphabet song with a puppet prone to make mistakes she loved to catch.
“I’m getting you a present.”
“You’re gift enough,” I told her. It wasn’t an easy time for her family. The last thing she should be worried about was securing an unnecessary gift. And I meant it; she was gift enough.
A few weeks passed, and every once in a while she’d say it again. “It’s a special present, Mrs. Vrabel.”
Eventually, I’d just nod.
Then one day, she stood in front of me, her cheeks flushed. “Close your eyes, Mrs. Vrabel,” she said in a sing-song. “Put out your hand!”
I laughed at her obvious pride, closed my eyes, and readied myself for whatever might be dropped into my hand. (In kindergarten, you never know!)
“It’s a ten! And it’s pink!”
I pulled in a deep breath. “I love it,” I told her. I love you, sweet girl.
She moved from our district at the end of that year. I pray she is as happy and as proud as she was that moment. I hope she knows that this gift is precious, one I keep with my jewelry.
I know it’s probably something she saw on the floor of a store and squirreled away in her pocket. But I also know pink was powerful to her. I know numbers were tricky.
I know she gave me a treasure.
It’s a reminder to give what you’re able to share, and give it with love. It whispers to value the giver, not the gift.