Friday, December 10, 2010

I'll take door #5!

When I was a kid, this time of year brought those most-magical books: The Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Wards Christmas Catalogs. My friends and I would lay on the family room floor, pass over the first bunch of pages devoted to dolls, and work on our Christmas lists. I'd refine that list over and over with each successive engagement with the catalogs. I'd compare prices (I wouldn't want "Santa" to be deterred by a few extra dollars!). I'd pore over the descriptions of the items I wanted, making certain that I specified the right option. Sometimes I would sort the list variously by price or by "desirability" (one year, I remember color-coding the items!). And I'd present that list (and its inevitable successors) to my parents: from their lips to Santa's ears! And then I'd wait.

More often than not, the wait would be rewarded with wrapped boxes which, when the paper was ripped off, would reveal the items I'd so coveted! Later on Christmas Day, and over the next several days, my friends and I would compare our gifts, celebrate our success in receiving the ones we'd wanted, and consoling each other over the heavily-desired-but-not-received gifts. (Santa must have known something we didn't!) We'd play the games, break (sometimes) the toys, and move on.

I suspect that this scenario has been borne out over and over again for most of us, whether holiday gift-giving is part of our heritage or not. My parents would ask me for my birthday list as well, even if there weren't catalogs devoted to THAT holiday! And I would more-than-happily comply. Indeed, I'm still asked by family members what I want for a gift (birthday, Christmas, Father's Day, etc.). And I know that the motive behind the asking is the desire to please. I ask the same thing of my loved ones!

Sometimes, however, the box that was unwrapped revealed something unexpected. I don't mean the right toy, wrong color, but rather a gift I never thought I wanted but couldn't believe how much I enjoyed! Someone thought "outside the box" and then put it IN a box!

And, now, as the wish-listing and gift-giving season is upon us again, I begin to wonder what might appear (not necessarily under the tree) that is unexpected and delightful. Or am I so caught up in the forced jolliness, and the need to shop-'til-I-drop, that I miss the more surprising gifts-both tangible and intangible.

Yesterday, while in the gym, I was "treated" on one of the suspended TVs to an episode of "Let's Make a Deal" -- a show that dates from those days on my family room floor, poring over Christmas catalogs. While Monty Hall is no longer the front man, the premise is much the same. "Will you trade the goat you have in door #1 for what might be behind door (or box) #2? What about "none of the above"?

I want to keep my eyes, and heart, open to a different option: what might be behind a door #5 that comes to me purely gratis and unexpectedly -- and that I can't believe someone thought to give me?



*For a very few years (1984-86), there WAS a Door #4 on the show. Most of us forgot that!

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