Friday, December 4, 2009

The Gift Box

Walking through the mall around Christmas time is an experience in itself. The air is impregnated with a fusion of warming aromas, and people look like a colony of ants, walking in and out of shops and carrying loads greater than their body weight. In the midst of all this, the main attraction is Santa, the magical old fellow dressed in red, surrounded by a mob of excited children and a line of weary moms, relieved that their little darlings’ outfits are still perfect for the picture with the good elf.

But what stands out most are the decorations; lots of them, bright and cheerful, crafty and classy, displayed along the hallways and inside overcrowded stores. In the window of one of these shops I saw something which caught my wandering eye: An array of beautifully wrapped gift boxes, stacked neatly for all to see, their sparkling wrapping paper glimmering in the bright spotlights beside a layout of expensive accessories.

Growing up with a mother who owned a retail store, I’m all too familiar with the grandiosity of Christmas decorations to attract business; after all, who would not be enticed by a gorgeous gift box, wrapped in gold paper and skillfully adorned with an exquisite velvet bow? To the exhausted eye of the tired Christmas shopper it’s a mirage of sorts.

As a child, I was in love with boxes such as those. They always had a special power over me; something looking that pretty had to contain an amazing gift. One day, curiosity had the best of me, and I sneaked out one of the beautiful “gifts”, eager to finally discover what incredible surprise was guarded within the refined packaging. I gently removed the ribbon with trembling hands – in part, probably, out of fear that my mother was going to catch me – and prepared to pull the tape which kept the beautiful paper tightly folded against the hard box. When I removed the paper and found a simple cardboard box I was slightly disappointed, but nothing had prepared me for the shuttering surprise once I finally lifted the lid: There was nothing in the box but tissue paper! Was this what I had risked getting in trouble for? I didn’t know whether to feel angry or upset; my beautiful gift, the one I had dreamt upon - and built castles in the air over - was nothing but an empty box.

As childish as that experience was, it taught me something very important that day: a gift can never be judged by the packaging it is wrapped in. Growing up, I realized the same applies to people.

Some of the most amazing people we meet don’t come in pretty packages; they may look or act rough; they may be someone we can’t imagine associating with; yet, they may yield a wonderful gift. The content of what they offer is precious, but it is presented humbly as they have no need to impress anybody, or blind anyone with artificial luster. The gift will stand for itself.

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