photo by Joe Madonna
The Apprentice’s Gift.
My five year old was disappointed. He sat on the small elf chair at the Christmas worktable,
“Mine’s not good at all. See? All the colors are mixed up.”
“It’s beautiful, pal.” I held the clear, plastic baseball up and wondered if I could rearrange the sand. I twisted the cap, but it was hot-glued and tacky to touch, “Your dad will love it!”
“No, it isn’t good, Mom. Look at Cal’s.” He kicked his leg back and forth and picked at a glob of glittery glue on the tabletop.
Cal, my son’s cousin and best friend, sat at the workbench and poured a scoop of florescent green sand into a funnel. He chose a football instead of a baseball, and worked with elfish attention to detail.
He mapped out the design in his mind, picked his colors deliberately, and in long slow intervals added layer after layer of dyed sand. He squished his cheek on the workbench, and fixed an apprentice’s eye on the shiny specs that drained into the hourglass.
He overheard our conversation, but continued his work. He selected snowy white for the final layer and looked at us. His best buddy sat with his chin in his hand.
Cal completed his endeavor and handed the football to the silver-haired lady elf. Her apron had two red-striped pockets. She holstered candy canes in one and her hot glue gun in the other. She adhered the top of Calvin’s handiwork, “Nice job,” she chirped, “you would make a fine helper for Santa.” Calvin smiled and joined his cousin at the sticky table.
“Hi,” my son said, “yours came out perfect. Look at mine.” He plunked his baseball down.
“I like yours,” Cal put his arm around his friend’s shoulders, “do you want to trade? You can have mine and I’ll keep yours because I think it’s really good.”
I looked at his mom and gasped. She placed her hand over her heart.
“Really? Okay, I’ll trade! Hey Mom,” my son jumped out of his seat holding the pink, blue, green, red, yellow and orange football high in the air, “look what Cal gave me!”
“That is so nice of him. I hope you thanked him.”
My boy dashed back to the table, gave Cal a high five and the two friends ran off to explore the rest of Wonderland.
I watched them and my heart opened and ached with gratitude to witness such a moment of authentic generosity.
“That,” I said to Cal’s mom, “was true Christmas spirit.” We laughed at our tears and wiped them away, “I love him so much,” she said, “I just want to kiss his face off.”
This child’s inherent kindness was remarkable. Empathy and generosity flow freely in him; it seemed natural to give away what he had worked so hard to perfect. He practiced what some refer to in Yoga as the unification of the heart, mind and hands.
Yoga translates to mean “unite”, and one of the goals is to quiet the mind so that we may hear what lives in the heart and then express it to others.
The Heart Chakra (Anahata) houses empathy, compassion and forgiveness. It is the seat of our loving relationships.
The Crown Chakra (Sahasrara) is our connection to a higher power. It provided the inspiration for Calvin’s gift, but one needs a strong sense of self and peaceful heart to act on inspiration.
And the Throat Chakra (Vishuddha) is the expression of who we are. Its energy is contagious and reveals the way our actions have a ripple effect in the world.
Our day in Santa’s Village was filled with the pandemonium any adventure with three young children provides: glove losses, runny noses, jackets zipping, jungle gyms, head bumps, decorated cookies, sugar highs, gentle scoldings, kisses for any and all achievements, and ultimately the noiseless exhaustion that delights mothers.
We checked into our hotel and swung open the doors to our connecting rooms. The boys changed into superhero pajamas and jumped on the bed while Cal’s little sister, Sadie (whom we call Sassafras), snuggled in between her mom and I in the next room. We read a book and listened to the boys demonstrate Karate moves.
“Hey Cal,” my son shouted, “’I’ll never forget this day for the rest of my life!”
Once again, Cal’s mom and I caught teary eyes and put our hands over our hearts. Then we laughed as hard as our two little super heroes.
The next afternoon, we packed our bags and prepared for a long drive home. Cal came into our room and placed the baseball next to the football, “I think I like mine. Can we switch back?” he asked.
“Okay. I kind of like mine too,” my son said, “hey, let’s go play with flashlights.”
It didn’t matter which sandy globe he went home with because the gift was not the thing. The gift was the moment, that exchange of the Earth’s abundant sand that touched each of us and burnished an extraordinary understanding of generosity in my boy.
The holiday season provides each of us with the opportunity to cast an eye inward, welcome our highest inspiration, and be an apprentice in the moment.