Traditions are the threads that sew the hearts of families together throughout the generations of time. One such tradition started when I was a child in my family of seven children. Our tradition was drawing a sibling’s name and then making a handmade gift for them for Christmas. No buying allowed. It was always these handmade gifts that were the most anticipated. Not because of the monetary value, but because they were truly gifts of the heart from the giver.
I recall that one year my teenage brother, Mike, made me a wooden toilet paper holder. He was so excited to present me with his gift. He had worked long and hard on it in his middle school wood shop class. He had put much thought into what kind of wood it should be made of and how durable it would be. You can imagine my bemusement when I opened his gift, complete with it’s own roll of toilet paper. I stifled a laugh as I saw the joy in Mike’s eyes as I lifted the toilet paper roll and holder out of the box to examine it. Mike excitedly told me the pain staking process that he had gone through and how difficult making a wooden toilet paper holder really was. Of course, I had no choice but to put Mike’s gift to use in my bathroom. After all, I would not want to hurt his feelings. But what surprised me was that as I used Mike’s gift day after day, I came to realize that his gift to me was not the wooden toilet paper holder. . . but it was his love for me, a true gift of the heart. My newly acquired wooden toilet paper holder became a daily symbol of my brothers love for me.
The tradition of handmade gifts continues on with my siblings to this day and extends into each of our individual families. Over the years, through this tradition we have come to learn that the most valuable and cherished gifts are the gifts that no money can buy. They are the gifts that come from the heart and are symbolic of unconditional love and family unity, even if they in the form of a wooden toilet paper holder. Gifts of the heart link family members together much like links in a chain and are symbolic of the love that anchors family members, providing stability during the storms of life. It is amazing to me how these gifts of the heart return to the giver in unexpected ways that are not tangible and bless the life of the giver more than it did the recipient.
Years ago, my brother, BJ wrote a story, a true story, that is a family favorite. It is a story about our family tradition of making gifts for each other, a story about Christian hope, a story about the love that anchors our family during the storms of life, but most of all, it is a story about gifts of the heart that return to the giver.