Just a Worn Out Change Purse
by Carl Light
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When I was a child, it was a tradition that Mom’s family would have a family get-together at Grandma’s house on Christmas Eve for fellowship and to exchange gifts. Mom was one of eight children, so when those eight came bringing with them their own family it was quiet a crowd and somewhat chaotic, especially when the gifts were being exchanged.
One particular year, I’m guessing about 1967 when I would have been nine years old, my Great-grandmother (Papaw’s Mom) was staying with Grandma. She was in her nineties at that time and her mind had started to fade into senility. She sat in her wheelchair close to me watching as all the children were opening gifts from their aunts, uncles, and cousins. I don’t remember if she reached into a purse, a bag or simply a pocket, but she brought out a very worn out change purse and handed it to me with a smile. I did not receive her gift well. I snubbed my nose up at it and was going to refuse it. How dare her to offer me such a “girly” and obviously worn gift! My Dad was seated close by and saw this. As I was about to refuse her gift I received from Dad, “that look.” When Dad gave you “that look” you froze and very quickly reassessed what you were doing because you were obviously doing something wrong and were about a step away from getting a whipping. (I grew up back when children still got whippings; not spankings or swats on the bottom, but dancing in your tears, thinking you were going to die, attitude changing, life shaping whippings). I knew from Dad’s look that I was to accept the gift and keep my feelings of ungratefulness to myself.
Years passed and I came to a place of maturity where I was able to realize what a precious gift my Great-grandmother had given me. I don’t know if she had the presence of mind to understand that it was Christmas Eve, but she did have the presence of “heart” to give. That change purse was the only thing she had to offer. She gave all she had, which means I received the greatest gift of all my cousins that night. What she gave was of pure love. I am reminded of a piece of scripture which seems to apply.
And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
Having come to understand the significance of her gift, I was left with two regrets.
1. Not showing a greater measure of appreciation for such a wonderful gift.
2. Not caring enough about the gift to keep up it.
My Great-grandmother Ola Carver passed away in the late seventies at the age of 101. She left us before I came to the understanding of what she had actually given me.
One day just a few years ago while visiting my parents, I expressed my feelings about all of this to my Mom. I told her that I really wish I had that change purse now, because it would be something that I would cherish. To my surprise, my Mom instantly left the room and returned with that ragged worn out change purse! I have it now and I do cherish it.
As far as the other regret goes, I’ll have my chance to correct that one too. You see, my Great-grandmother was a born again Christian and so am I. That means one day we will be together again in Heaven. I don’t know what memories we may or may not have of this world when we get there, but if God permits, I will thank her properly for her precious gift and return the love she showed to an unappreciative nine year old boy so long ago.
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Well written and so true. As we grow older and wiser we can look back over the life we have lived and see the times when we didn't realize how important a moment in time could be. But as you stated someday perhaps we will be able to correct those things. And each one of those instances proved to be an important lesson that helped to shape the person we were to become. Thank you for sharing.