Making Light Work of Giving

Making Light Work of Giving

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Dear Jonah,

I don’t know when you figured out that your old man would love you giving him gifts made by your own hands. Possibly, you really took to heart your parents’ message that it’s the act of giving that counts. Possibly, you liked saving the money. And possibly, it was making anything that involved fire.

We’ll never know. But when you were 13 years old and in the afterglow of becoming a Bar Mitzvah, you made me a birthday present that consisted of a cardboard box, one side of which you had replaced with a watercolor depiction of a night sky. You’d poked small holes in the stars so that the candles you placed inside, when burning, would light up the heavens.

I was euphoric.

Hanukkah 2003

Truth be told, it wasn’t that the gift was handmade. It was that thought went into it, intention permeated it, and love delivered it. I feel the same way when your sister and brother present me with a Hanukkah or birthday present they’ve purchased for me. I can see all that went into choosing it, and their pride in watching my face as I tear away the wrapping and first set eyes on their sweet offering. Your presents and theirs have always been for me a most precious demonstration of our shared love.

These days, with Katie and Aiden grown, we mostly (and readily) express our fondness for each other in farewells (either in person or by phone) that consist of a quick, “Love you!” I don’t think you ever reached that “Love you!” point in life. Three months before you died, during Hanukkah of 2008, you presented me with yet another punctured, candle-lit box (this one noteworthy for its having been completely wrapped in aluminum foil, yet another example of your imaginative use of free supplies … or an attempt to fireproof another of your pyrotechnic inventions). I’m sure those words would have eventually come out of you but, in 2008, you weren’t quite there. That was fine; you still knocked me over with your silly, heartfelt gifts.

The Bar Mitzvah!

While I still have many of the presents you made for me, that first night sky somehow disappeared (I suppose that building to last hadn’t been foremost on your mind). But the memory of that gift has remained with me. It warms my soul to think about it, to think about the goodness that had been growing in you, and the goodness you had begun to share with the world around you. I was so proud to be the father who got to watch you grow into adulthood.

These days, there is no doubt that, although absent, you continue to kindle light in my life. And as I’m wont to do these days, imagining the afterlife just because I’d really like to someday see you again, I’ll bet you every one of those handmade presents that you’re up there right now with that silly, gentle disposition of yours, putting a smile on God’s face and an ever-rising light in the heavens.

Love you forever,

“Gifts Given and Received” is our December 2018 Campaign. Please help us help kids build whole, healthy lives. Send your contribution to today. Thank you!

BillyMaking Light Work of Giving

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