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The Timeless Gift

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The Timeless Gift

By Harrison Kelly

Shopping for a Christmas gift can be the most nerve-wracking event of the year. Shopping for my wife can be a special challenge. Vacuum cleaners are too impersonal, football tickets are too impractical, and kitchen gadgets are downright impossible. I was at a loss, with Christmas fast approaching. In desperation, I asked my secretary, Sally, to help me pick out a present.

We walked side by side in a fast-paced walk, two blocks to the jewelry store. Working in the downtown business district had its advantages; being close to a lot of shopping places was one of them. However, there were disadvantages as well. On the way, our path crossed a couple of homeless men, huddled together by a vent from one of the nearby buildings.

I started to cross the street to avoid them, but traffic was too thick. Just before we approached, I switched sides with Sally to keep them from confronting her. They were surely going to beg for money, pretending to buy food, but any donation would surely end up as beer or wine.

As we got closer, I could see that one was probably in his mid-thirties and the other was a boy of school age - around thirteen or fourteen. Both were dressed shabbily, the older with a too-tight sport coat ripped at the sleeve, while the boy was without a coat at all, only a tattered shirt separating him from the blowing wind. A quarter or two and they'll leave us alone, I thought. "I'll handle this," I said with my best male bravado.

But Sally seemed undisturbed by the sight of the two beggars. In fact, she seemed comfortable in their presence. Before they asked, she offered.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" she directed her question to the two homeless men. I was in shock, waiting to pull Sally away from a dangerous situation, but she stood firm.

The two men looked at her with surprise until the older one spoke up. "Yes, ma'am. We do need something."

Here it comes - the hook, the gouge, I thought. The two panhandlers are looking for a handout, an easy mark. As I watched, I could tell the younger boy was shivering in the winter breeze, but what could I do?

"Could you tell us the time?" asked the older man. Sally glanced at her watch and replied, "Twelve-fifteen." He nodded his thanks and didn't say another word. We continued on our way to the jewelry store, and I had to ask Sally about the encounter.

"Why did you ask if you could help that man?"

"He was cold and in need, that's why," she replied in a matter-of-fact tone.

"But he's a bum. He could have tried to rob you or something."

"I take care of myself. But sometimes you have to take a chance on someone."

We arrived at the jewelry store, and Sally quickly found the perfect gift for my wife - a pair of diamond earrings. While she was there, she bought a man's watch, not an expensive one, but she was always thrifty. Probably a gift for her husband, I thought.

As we walked back to our building, the two vagabonds were still hovering around the sidewalk grate. Once again, I tried to come between Sally and the two, but she wouldn't let me. To my surprise, when we got next to them, she pulled the watch out of the bag and handed it to the older man.

"Here, I'm sure you know how to use it."

He was as shocked as I was. "Thank you, much obliged, ma'am," he said, trying the watch on his wrist. As we walked away, Sally had a gleam in her eyes, proud of what she had done.

"Why on Earth did you do that?"

Sally shrugged and said, "God has been so good to me, and I decided to do something good for him."

"But he didn't deserve it."

"Even the poor want something special, and besides, God's done things for me that I don't deserve - but He did them anyway."

"He's probably going to buy beer with that watch."

Sally just smiled at me and said, "Well, so what if he does? That's not my concern. I did something for good and that's all that matters. What he does with the watch is his challenge."

We arrived back at our building and went into our separate offices. I wondered about the encounter, and I thought about the two men. Surely they were at the pawnshop, getting ready for a hot time at Sally's expense.

The next day, I was going to lunch alone at a hamburger stand outside our building. As I walked down the street, I noticed the same two men that Sally and I had encountered. They were both still hovering around the heater vent. The older man recognized me and said, "Excuse me, sir. Could you give me the time?"

Aha! I had caught him. Sally's watch was nowhere to be found. Exactly what I thought.

"Where is the watch my secretary gave you yesterday?" I asked, hoping to stir his heart.

He hung his head down and admitted his guilt. "Sir, I'm sorry but I had to do something." It was then I noticed the new parka around the shoulders of his young companion. "Wouldn't you do something for one of your own?"

Speechless, I handed him a quarter and continued on my way. As I walked, I started thinking about the incident. He had sold the watch all right, but he bought a coat, not beer, with the money. Sally's act of kindness did have meaning. So did her words: The challenge was answered.

As I arrived at the hamburger stand, I suddenly lost my appetite. I turned around and headed back to the office. The two men were still by the grate. I tapped the older man on the shoulder and he looked up at me, obviously freezing. I took my long, gray overcoat off and draped it over his shoulders without saying a word. As I walked away, I knew that my own challenge had been met. The few steps back to my office made my teeth chatter. But, you know...it was one of the warmest trips I have ever made in my life.

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Guest msxtrme

Thanks for that reminder....it is truly not about us. True prosperity is the ability to not only take care of yourself, but to take care of someone else.

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Thanks for providing this story.

Sometimes, a good deed can multiply, as your story describes.

Sally's response to her friend regarding how the watch was to be used was "timeless." She meant it for good; that was all that was truly important.

Don Levit

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