The other day my daughter went to her Youth Group's dirty Santa gift exchange. Each girl was instructed to bring a $15 gift. My little girl put together a gift including her handmade jewelry (it's really amazing, and I'm not just saying that because I'm her mom), a bar of our Lump O' Coal / Activated Charcoal donkey milk soap, (priceless for pre-teens with acne), one of our hand crocheted donkey toys, and a boxed jewelry bead crafting set.
We were confident her amazing gift was going to be oohed and aahed over, and stolen over and over again.
So, I was surprised when she came out of the youth party crestfallen. When I asked what was wrong, and she told me her one friend wasn't there, and the rest of the kids didn't pay any attention to her, and that only one girl came to see if she was ok when she saw her sitting by herself, then left her to go back to hang out with the rest of the girls.
And then she told me the girl that got her gift didn't like the soap, and traded it with disdain for a tiny package of m&m's. (Sadly, the girl had acne, and really could have used the soap.) And the only thing in the gift that anyone seemed to like was the box of jewelry making beads. I didn't have the heart to ask what became of the jewelry she made. I didn't want to know.
And when I asked what the other gifts were, and what she got, she informed me that most of the gifts were candy. So my diabetic daughter got a chocolate orange.
The momma bear in me wanted to send a message to all the mom's at youth group and tell them how rude and inconsiderate their little girls were, and that cliques don't belong at church, and how hurt my daughter was, and that candy isn't always the best gift idea when there are at least 2 girls in that class with type 1 diabetes (let that statistic sink in.) And how the kid that traded and got the $12.99 donkey soap in exchange for a .50 cent pack of toxic red dye M&M's scored the deal of the night.
But, I didn't.
Because I've grown up just a wee bit in the last few years.
Instead, I talked to my little girl about the verse about not throwing pearls to pigs.
(In hindsight, probably not the best choice, but, it's what came to mind in the moment. I'm no preacher.)
But now that I've had time to think about it and the steam has dissipated from my ears, it just makes me sad.
How often have I done the same thing.
Overlooked the lonely.
Laughed at a joke that was mean spirited.
Spoken barbs in sarcasm.
And I still deeply regret the time we pretended to have a crush on that boy in the 6th grade. That little boy in the 6th grade with greasy hair and torn jeans. That little boy with buck teeth and a sweet heart that could run faster than the fastest kid in school. That little boy who we later learned was likely being abused at home, and that for all we knew, no one reported it to the authorities, not even when he slept in a shed by the football field rather than go home late from school. That little boy who ran 3 miles home after detention and beat the school bus to his door so his Daddy wouldn't know. That little boy that needed kindness from his classmates, and got none.
That little boy that grew up and went to prison after he tried to stab his brother to death over a girl.
Sometimes, dear daughter, being left out and excluded is a gift in itself.
Now you understand how it feels to be the one left out. You've been given the gift of empathy for the lonely and broken hearted.
Now you understand how it feels to have your gift discarded and tossed aside. Now you have a tiny glimmer of how God must have felt...
When he gave us his Son, and we did not have room for him in the Inn.
When He sent us the Light, and we preferred the darkness.
When He told us the way to eternity, and we sent him to His death.
We did not treasure the gift.
We mocked, abused, and destroyed the greatest Gift given to the world.
And today, we do the same.
We use His name in vain.
We sit by and let them profane Him.
We hoard the Gift to ourselves and tell no one.
Sweet little girl, you got the best gift of all this Christmas.
Treasure these pearls of wisdom, hard won.
You are a daughter of the King.
And to the little boy in my 6th grade class, I'm so so sorry. If you're still alive, in prison or free, I hope you can forgive me.
I didn't know.
"When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on His right and the other on His left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His garments by casting lots. 35The people stood watching, and the rulers sneered at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
There is no greater gift.
This Christmas, let us treasure the pearls.
And sing Hallelujah.