Parson to Person: “On Gifts” 5-1-20

As we are all sheltering in place during the pandemic, I have noticed some small things, small gifts, that have lifted my spirits a bit: someone making masks for others, someone donating money in that person’s name, someone shopping for a person who can’t get out and do it for themselves, someone calling another just to let them know they are thinking about them. All of this reminded me of a story about gift giving that struck a chord with me. Don’t know if it’s literally true or not; but there’s a truth in it, in any case.

It seems there was a woman living in a thatched house (in Africa? in South America?) who was helped by a Peace Corps volunteer when her husband died. She wanted to give the Peace Corps woman a gift on her birthday, but she didn’t have the money to buy anything, so she crocheted a small mat out of leftover threads that she had either found by the roadside or collected from her neighbors.

When she was done, she walked the several miles through the bush that lay between her house and the Peace Corps member’s home. It was a very hot and humid day and she ran out of water halfway there, so by the time she arrived she was rather bedraggled and thirsty.

The Peace Corps volunteer gave her a drink and had her sit down and wrapped her feet in a wet towel. She was of course very moved by the woman’s gift (and her determination to get it to her!). And when it was time to go, she offered her guest a ride back home in her mule cart. But the woman declined the ride and said, “I hope you not offended, but I walk back on my own. You see, walk is part of gift.”

I’ve thought a lot about that story–especially during the pandemic when I have time to notice little gifts–and I can’t get its simple message out of my mind: There is always more to a gift than the gift itself.

Some years ago someone gave me a wonderful and very thoughtful gift. As it happened, the physical part of the gift didn’t turn out as expected. But the thought and intention–and yes, the love–behind it could not be diminished by that little detail. And so I cherish the gift behind the gift.

I hope you give and receive many gifts during this time, understanding that the thought and love behind them are the real gift. The physical part is just a way to wrap it.

peace and unrest,



P.S. Speaking of gifts: In response to my last two Parson to Person columns about kids mishearing what adults say, two of you sent me these stories:

“As a dutiful, mostly obedient Lutheran kid, I memorized the Apostles Creed early on, and never needed or thought to look at the words–that would imply I hadn’t memorized it. And what I heard and said for all those years was “and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, who SINNETH at the right hand of the Father…”  I thought that was a bit odd since I didn’t think Jesus could or would sin, but that was only one of the contradictory issues I had with the church. Nevertheless, I was quite surprised to learn that–as usually pictured–Jesus is SITTING at the right hand of the Father (though maybe thinking about sinning?).

–  Thanks to Janet Jensen for sharing this, well, gift. Hope to hear from a few others of you too.


“Growing up, my friend’s little sister often misheard things, especially at church. Two she’s famous for are “The Apey Attitudes” (“Apey” as in Ape-like)–which most people, of course, know as “The Eight Beatitudes”– and also the song lyrics, “Crazy the Lord, Hallelujah!”

-Thanks to Lyn Gust for this story.


Hope to hear a few more “gifts” from a few others of you too!