When Pastor Smith recently spoke from the book of Acts about “it is more blessed to give than to receive,”* I couldn’t help but think of the year my little brother, Sammy, was in the fourth grade.
Sammy was a bit smaller than the other nine year olds. But what Sammy lacked in stature, he made up for in hair. He had the thickest head of dark brown curls anyone ever saw. Those abundant shiny curls indicated his youthfulness; his steady blue eyes signified wisdom beyond his years. They were a light blue, so light they seemed almost translucent. Looking into his eyes was like looking into a crystal clear lake.
One cold January afternoon, Sammy marched through the kitchen door saying, “Mama, I want to give a valentine to everybody in my class this year.”
Mama and I exchanged apprehensive glances. We knew Sammy had never received a single valentine from any of his classmates.
“Sammy,” I began, “that’s a lot of valentines. Why don’t you pick out just a few people and give valentines to them?”
“No, Becca—not just a few people,” he replied, “ I want to make a valentine for everyone. Can I?” Sammy asked as he turned toward Mama.
Mama’s eyes went from Sammy’s expectant face to mine and back to Sammy. “Yes, Sammy, you can make a valentine for everyone.”
Smiling broadly, Sammy scurried off to take care of his daily farm chores.
After supper, as Mama and I finished washing and drying dishes, I questioned her. “Mama, why did you agree for him to do that? You see how the other children treat him. You see how he is always walking behind them as they laugh and talk with each other. They don’t include Sammy in any of their activities and not one of them has ever given him a valentine.”
“Yes Becca, I know those things, too. I’ve never known him to be mistreated; they simply don’t seem to see Sammy at all. I’ve pondered it and while I don’t know why he gets left out, I do know Sammy is a happy boy. He helps Papa and he does his chores without a grumble. His teachers say he’s a fine boy—never giving them a problem. It is as if Sammy marches to his own drummer, as if he has his own inner light. I don’t know why Sammy wants to make a valentine for everyone, but I’ll help him and I hope you will, too.” Mama said as she hung the dish towels over the stove handle to dry.
That evening Mama found some colored paper and glue for Sammy and she let him use her good sewing scissors. I added my crayon collection to Sammy’s crayons. Each afternoon Sammy continued to walk alone behind the other children as they made their way home from school. Each evening from mid-January until Saint Valentine’s Day, Sammy would finish his homework and then sit at the kitchen table making valentines.
Saint Valentine’s Day finally arrived and Mama helped Sammy bundle up all his valentines with a string. Sammy happily set out for school.
All day I hoped that at least one of his classmates had made a valentine for my little brother. I hoped he would not come home feeling lonely, brokenhearted. But fearful that he might need some cheering up, I put our fishing gear near the kitchen door so I could take him to our favorite fishing hole.
In the afternoon, I eagerly watched as the children came down the road from school. Again, Sammy walked alone, behind all the laughing children. Sammy walked through the kitchen door. His hands were empty. Sammy was grinning from ear to ear.
With raised eyebrows, Mama and I glanced at each other wondering what had put such happiness in an empty-handed little boy’s heart.
“Not anybody!” Sammy joyously declared. “I didn’t forget anybody!” And with that Sammy bounded off to do his evening chores.
Later that evening after Sammy had gone to bed, I asked Papa how my little brother could be so cheerful after being totally neglected by his classmates. In his quiet way, Papa thought a few minutes before replying, “Becca, I don’t rightly know, but maybe Sammy’s investing in what God loves the most—other people.”
*Acts 20:35 (NIV)
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