For my grandson’s birthday, I bought him clothes. Only clothes.
I knew better. But soon-to-be-seven Niko had told his mother, “Gramsy always buys the best clothes.” Which she interpreted as his birthday wishes from me.
He must have meant the outfits I bought other people.
But I didn’t know that until later.
That was mistake No. 1.
Not having lost all the smarts I gained during motherhood, I knew receiving clothes might be less than exciting at a kid’s birthday party.
So I decided to wrap the gifts creatively to make receiving them more fun.
It might have been a mistake.
My husband and I started saving all the boxes we received from Amazon — and the air-filled plastic pillows stuffed in them.
Steve wanted to fill a huge box just with those plastic pillows, knowing how much the child liked popping them when he visited.
(I vetoed that idea, having received an enormous box filled with crumpled newspaper and a too-small gift at the bottom when I turned 6.)
So I built this
We ended up with a number of small boxes and, knowing Niko loved the videogame Minecraft, I found a picture of a tree to mimic.
I spray-painted boxes green or brown, filled each box with some sort of gift (and air pillows to pop), and built a Minecraft-themed tree.
I painted grass on the brown earth box on the bottom, added 3D greenery and flowers, and, as a final touch, tucked a stuffed toucan in the tree top.
Steve warned me that it was overkill. That it would be unappreciated and torn to shreds. But he was wrong.
(Oh! That was so much fun to type.)
The tree was a hit.
But it made Niko think what was hidden inside it must be even better.
Not so much.
It delighted his mom and may please him at some point, but after he opened one box of clothes, he made it clear he’d hoped for something much, much cooler.
It was my grandson’s delight — and disappointment
Grandpa delivered a solar-powered robot kit and real binoculars. (Whew.)
So the gift-giving wasn’t a total bust in the 7-year-old’s eyes.
But since those more weighty toys were wrapped as the ground and the tree trunk and Niko started with the leafy green boxes at the top, he’d been programmed for disappointment by too many shirts and shorts.
My mistake (well, biggest mistake)
I thought by wrapping the gift as a Minecraft tree, I would make receiving clothes more fun.
But it was like sugar-coating the outside of a bottle of nasty cough syrup instead of giving the medicine with a spoonful of sugar. (Thank you, Mary Poppins.)
The tree did not make receiving clothes more palatable.
(Next year, Grandpa can buy Niko something really cool. Then I’ll wrap it in plain brown wrapping paper with hand-drawn thought bubbles saying, “Ugh. Gramsy probably bought me clothes again” and the like.)
The simple lesson from a 7-year-old
It’s easy to get caught in outward trappings or what we see on the surface, isn’t it?
In addition to building a tree, this past week I struggled with a return of my teenage torment — acne!
After decades of clear skin, I suddenly had two enormous cystic pimples erupt on my chin.
AND the dubious honor of being a host on a two-and-a-half-minute TV segment. Without a professional makeup artist to aid me. Pimples front and center.
Facing the truth
I felt the discomfort of the painful zits. When I looked in the mirror, all I saw were pimples.
I was certain that was all others would see, too.
(If a camera adds 10 pounds, how much would a video camera magnify my zits? Argh.)
Of course, I also experience:
- bad hair days,
- Zoom call sessions in which my nose appears bright red,
- fluorescent lights that emphasize cellulite more than muscles,
- a scale that tells me unpleasant truths each morning,
- and the wrinkles or arthritis that remind me that youth is, indeed, wasted on the young and I wish I had more time to waste…
All of these threaten my self-esteem and make me forget that what is inside me is much, much cooler than how I appear outside (to myself, the camera, and others).
The beautiful spiritual lesson in this
The Apostle Peter reminded us that what matters is what’s inside — our character, our heart, and our spirit.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.(1 Peter 3:3, NIV)
(Poohness. Shopping and a beauty treatment would have been nice.)
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.(1 Peter 3:4, NIV)
Niko’s 7-year-old self was looking at awesome packaging and anticipating something more exciting than shirts and shorts inside.
But he was right, wasn’t he?
No matter what sort of packaging we see on the outside — of ourselves and others or even gifts we’re receiving — we should know that what’s inside is what matters.
And, I hope, expect that what’s inside is even better.
And we do our best to make it true of us.
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