We recently had wonderful guests stay at our home. This family has three young boys, and before they arrived we decided to buy them each a little gift. Peter and I walked up and down the toy aisles at a local store and settled on three small cars. After we purchased them, I bundled each car in a piece of decorative tissue paper and then into a somewhat plain gift bag. It’s been my experience that when kids open gifts, they rarely pay attention to the wrapping once the gift is in hand. So I have to admit that I didn’t do the fanciest wrapping job. But it was enough to make sure the boys felt that they were getting something special.
A few minutes after our guests arrived, I told the boys that we had gifts for them. They looked at me with big eyes when I handed them each a bag. They sat on the ground and looked in their bags. They reached inside, grabbed the tissue paper, and pulled it out to get at the toys. Once they saw the toys, the bags and paper were flung to the side and three boys were ecstatically making car noises and rolling the vehicles around on the floor. Feeling that the wrapping was now a thing of the past, I grabbed it all and tucked it to the side.
As the day went on, I forgot about the wrapping, and we all went about our lovely visit. We had something to eat, took a walk, laughed, sang a few Christmas songs, and had a great day. In the evening after the boys went to sleep, I was tidying up and looking for the wrapping from the gifts. I didn’t see it anywhere and was puzzled. It wasn’t in the garbage. Peter said he didn’t put it in the fireplace. It wasn’t where I left it. It seemed that it had vanished.
But, the next morning when the boys woke up and came to breakfast, they each had their gift bags in hand. I mentioned to their mom that I was surprised they had the bags with them. She said to me that they loved keeping the wrapping from their gifts, and when I looked at her a little perplexed, she told me to watch what they did. Well, after a big breakfast of oatmeal and raisins, the boys each took their gift bags, sat down on the floor again, and reopened their gifts with as much excitement as the first time.
They were truly as happy to open them a second time as they were the first.
Throughout the day I watched them do the same thing over and over. When the boys were done playing for a while, they would rewrap the cars and make them look like they had never been opened. When they were ready to play again, they would reopen them. It was fun watching their excitement each time, and it really tugged at my heart to see their sense of wonder and joy undiminished even though they knew exactly what was inside.
It made me think honestly about how often I had gotten gifts I really desired for my birthday or Christmas, but after a few days, weeks, or months I barely even noticed them anymore. It made me think about how, as adults, we tend to take so much for granted. And we lose that excitement and joy. Once we unwrap something, it becomes part of our new normal and we go on with life. I admit that I don’t always savor the feeling of joy that comes from a gift. After watching the boys, I committed myself to rediscovering that sense of wonder.
A few weeks ago I purchased a beautiful, locally crafted mug that I use every single day. I love the color. I love the feel of the cup in my hands. I love knowing who made it. I love that I supported a local business. And I’d like to experience that undiminished joy for a long time. So, I’ve decided to put a pretty gift bag on the counter in the kitchen. Every night, once the mug is washed and dried, I will wrap it in tissue paper and place it in the bag. Then, in the morning, I can unwrap it as if it has never been opened before. I will hold the cup, admire the color and glaze, and lovingly make a cup of tea that feels so warm and perfect in my hand.
These boys taught me that there truly is magic in an unwrapped gift, even if it has in fact been unwrapped many times. I’m wondering how I can apply that magic to even more areas of my life. And how I can reconnect to the simple, yet profound, delight and excitement in my daily activities.
Thank you, William, Aden, and Nicolai. You have taught me a beautiful lesson that I will cherish and take forward with me into the New Year.
Wishing you all the magic of an unwrapped gift!