20 June 2007

An article, a story, a coin, a pebble...

In an email, Jim Putnam referred me to a Christian Century article.

It's a good article. Never mind that it's written by a believer, in a Christian publication; it has much to say about human love, human curiosity, the power of imagination and the power of story.

The present of a coin which has lasted down the years reminded me of a story of my own, about a pebble. Almost everyone I know has already heard it - so, to them, I apologise for telling it again here. Those who don't know me may find it embarrassing, since I don't have Gordon Atkinson's story telling talent ... well, you can always skip reading it: go to the above link instead.

This telling of my pebble story is taken from a discussion with a young friend who had said to me "As I am poor, the gifts I give are usually books or CDs..." My reply was:

I have a very vivid memory from childhood.

I was seven years old. It was the day before my father's birthday. I had spent all my pocket money, and only then realised that I needed to save some for a present. I could have asked my mother for present money; she would not have judged me ... indeed, she had offered it in addition to my pocket money, but I said no, I would buy it with my own money. Truth is, I judged myself, and harshly.

Walking up a country lane in the rain, crying my little eyes out, I happened to see a beautiful rose quartz pebble glistening on the ground. I picked it up, and put it in my pocket.

That night, lying in the dark long after everyone else was asleep, worrying over my lack of a present for the following morning, I remembered the glistening pebble. I got up, found it in my shorts pocket amongst the fluff, dead insects, bits of twig and fragments of raw potato left over from experiments with frying chips on a hot sidewalk, and examined it by torchlight. It had lost its rainsparkle, so I went downstairs and found various dusters and polishes. I spent the rest of the night buffing and polishing it until it once again shone.

In the morning, shamefaced, I gave my father the pebble and explained that I had spent all my money on myself. He exclaimed over it, hugged me, told me all about rose quartz and how it forms, then told me it was the best present he had ever had.

Many years later, at a family Christmas, we discussed giving. I told my father about the pebble, thinking he would have long ago forgotten it. He reached into his trouser pocket, and drew it out to show me - the same pebble, shiny from years of handling in many pockets.

The phrase "it's the thought that counts" is a much mocked one - but, I believe, the truest one in the world.

1 comment:

Kate Raynes said...

What an incredibly beautiful story and lesson... I am in awe...