We were a group of oldsters with a lively young speaker, Janice "Cookie" Hagan. "What is the greatest gift you ever received?" she asked. It wasn’t a game.
We began to jot down ideas of great gifts. It was a thought-provoking exercise, and not many of us had previously given the matter a lot of thought. I made notes as Cookie talked. What has been my greatest gift? Home, husband and two happy children - great gifts. Then there was the Saturday morning when a Federal Express driver interrupted our breakfast and handed me a heavy box. In it was an engraved glass prism from Tiffany’s and a check for $1,000! The gift was sent because of a letter written by a good friend to a magazine for seniors.
Courage? Maybe that was the greatest. Cookie was doing a survey of older people and the gifts they most treasured; she asked us to mail our answer sheets to her later. Friendship? There were many great gifts.
I thought my greatest gift might be courage. But I changed that as I began to write. The really great gift was trust. It was the trust I had in myself, the trust I had in others and the trust offered to me from friends and even strangers. Mom said as a toddler I ran over things and tripped; on the way back, I’d trip and fall over the same thing. Blinded by what was most important to me at the moment, I was running roughshod over anything in my way. That was not a great gift, to be sure.
In sixth grade at school, I was daring and self-confident beyond the point of sanity. I once walked across a deep ravine on a fallen tree, trusting my bare feet to cling to the bark. I admit our teacher was shouting, "No, Sue, no, no÷" but I had no fear. I foolishly trusted myself.
Once, I did a dangerous Houdini escape act in 8 feet of water after being tied up in a huge burlap bag and dropped in. I was trusting someone would rescue me if anything went wrong. The bag was tied by a man from the audience - tightly.
For a few moments, I thought I had pushed trust too far. There was a trick to escaping, of course, but for a few scary moments the trick wasn’t working.
My husband trusted me to take three European bicycle tours, averaging 10 college students on each trip. We trusted each other; I planned the itinerary and did the budgeting and reservations, etc. I even led 10 cyclists, single file, through downtown London in lunchtime traffic.
I trusted foreign merchants by extending more money than was required and allowing them to pick out the correct amount, even if they were counting it in a language I didn’t understand. I trusted them and was never sorry.
We averaged more than 900 miles of pedaling each year, carrying all our belongings in saddlebags. We trusted each other as one big family and were rewarded with cooperative and happy tour participants.
Writing this, I realize the college hired me knowing I had no teaching experience. I never forgot Christian/Columbia College’s gift of trust, and I tried to be worthy of it.
Living close to natural things - woods, rocks, water, sky, birds, coyotes, stars and, yes, manure and crab grass, my world is a quiet, beautiful one.
I trust that if I do what I know to be right, I might deserve the great gifts of trust I’ve received.