“What would’ja like for Father’s Day?” I asked Jerry and braced myself for his answer. Please be something I can afford. Each Father’s Day I do something for Jerry because he’s a great dad to our son. The clock ticked while Jerry gave my question serious thought.
“I’d like you to pay my two bills,” he said. Jerry has a side operation that brings in a small income which he uses to fund his passions. For his passions, he has invoices to pay. His request caught me off-guard. But I agreed once I learned his bills were within the budget.
How would I make paying his bills seem like a fun gift? Should I mark the invoices “paid” and wrap them in boxes with fancy paper and ribbon? Or perhaps wrap myself in a box and then pop out on Father’s Day and wave the checkbook in the air and announce I’ve paid his bills?
Jerry hates surprises so it’s better I ask what he wants than guess. I wouldn’t know what to get him anyway. He often wants a machine tool or some kind of reloading equipment I’m unfamiliar with. I know, however, what he doesn’t want. Clothes. More specifically, shirts, pants, shoes, socks, heaven forbid a tie. He’s okay with someone buying him a shirt if they saw it and thought he might like it. But if it’s wrapped in a box, it better be an arc welder or a tool and die set.
Jerry wants anything a man might need to build and create. That excludes clothing because technically a man can build and create while naked. Part of Jerry’s aversion to clothes, I believe, stems from the summer prior to his seventh grade year when he worked at a blueberry farm picking blueberries all summer long. Other than smiling flirtatiously at the beautiful Betty Buchard, a thirteen-year-old who plucked blueberries alongside him, he recalls his blueberry summer as a painful experience. Not painful from blueberry-stained hands, but painful because he had to use the money earned to purchase his school clothes. A plan that was definitely not his. Clothes, and blueberries, have since ranked lowest of low (along with beets) on Jerry’s list of least favorite things.
Jose Lopez Manuel Barrios, age 9, has a different take. He wants clothes for his birthday. I bet he likes blueberries too. Since 2009 I have sponsored Jose through Compassion International. Over the past five years Jose has sent me crayon drawings and letters telling me he thinks of me every day because he has one of the cards I sent him hanging above his bed. He asks me to pray for his grandfather who is ill. He writes of his aspirations. He plans to grow up and become a doctor. Or an author. “Like you,” he wrote. He ends his letters with “I love you.” He’s flat-out adorable.
After Jose’s fifth birthday, I got a letter from his mother saying thank you for the “pantalones,” the gift purchased for his birthday with the money I sent.
What? No Legos? No technological gadget? No robotic car or action hero or whatever young boys in America want for their birthday? Jose gets “pantalones”?
I’ve since received photos of Jose holding up his new shoes or t-shirts or wearing his new pants, all gifts purchased with the birthday check I send each year. For his eighth birthday, Jose sent a photo of his usual new pair of birthday zapatos, but this time the picture included two boxes of Fruit Loops and a Mexican version of Nestlé’s Quik.
In Jose’s world in Carillo Puerto, the majority of adults have no employment, and the ones who have a job average an income of $186 a month as fishermen. Pantalones and zapatos and Fruit Loops are gifts for the wealthy.
What do I consider a gift for the wealthy? A 10-carat diamond? Maybe. A really cute sports car in candy apple red? Perhaps. A year-long trip to Ireland and Wales? Oh yes! But none of these would cause lasting happiness.
Which makes me wonder about all the gifts in life we have that don’t require money. Such as, love, friendship, imagination, grace, joy, peace, the beauty of puffy pink clouds against a blue sky in the Arizona desert, prayer, the sound of birds holding a symphony in a tree smothered in yellow blossoms, rainbows…if we couldn’t have these, wouldn’t we want to pay for them? How much would you pay for a rainbow? Or for a friend? We’d save just to have these….”Did you hear the Joneses just purchased a friend? It cost them ten-million dollars. If we could just keep up with them and have a friend too!”
Ann Voskamp wrote the book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, an affirmation of the free gifts life offers and a renewed appreciation of what we have.
I read the book and it changed my life in a way. It made me pay attention to what I have rather than what I don’t have. Who can put a price on the sight of a hummingbird all a flutter outside your window, the aroma of fresh coffee, the cry of geese flying against the horizon, or love in all its many wonderful facets?
You can’t. But you can put a price on items from an industrial supply company.
Jerry, your bills are paid. Happy Father’s Day.