The day before Christmas Eve the adoption worker came to the house for a visit with my soon to be daughter. She brought with her papers for me to sign. She explained that by signing these papers I was saying that I wanted to adopt my little girl. She continued to explain what else had to be done as part of the adoption process.
Before the adoption worker left she presented me with a beautifully wrapped gift. She told me that the gift was from a woman at her church. At her church, parishioners bought presents for all the children in foster care. This gift was for my daughter.
I thanked her. She left. I looked more carefully at the present. There was a card that read: “To my angel (my daughter’s name), from Bertha.” Now, I know the present was for my daughter, but it is really hard for a baby to unwrap presents, so I ripped the package open. Inside the package was expensive baby clothing.
It was the kind of baby clothing that you give to someone at a baby shower- extravagant and adorable. It was the kind of baby clothing that you give your good friend or your sister for a child that you will know and love. Bertha took time, and went to great expense to buy and wrap these outfits for my daughter. I filled with wonder.
I wondered: who is this woman buying expensive gifts for a child she may never meet and does not know? I felt strange receiving such a wonderful and expensive gift from someone I did not know. I felt strange receiving such a wonderful and expensive gift when I certainly could well afford to purchase these items for my child. I wondered: how do I receive this gift? I also wondered: am I this generous?
In the past, I have gotten presents for children from an angel tree, but were the gifts as lavish? Sheepishly, I must answer no. Certainly, I gave nice things, but frankly, I did not put as much thought nor expense in the items I bought. It brings to mind the question: do I give thoughtfully and lavishly?
Sometimes I do give thoughtfully and lavishly when I buy a present for a friend. I also try to give generously to charities and the church. I try to give, but I sometimes find myself wanting to know who is getting this and what are they using it for. Does that person, charity, church deserve my gift? Will my gift be used wisely? I want to control the receiving of the gift, so I guess that is not really a gift anymore.
I think about Bertha, whoever she is. She has given lavishly and thoughtfully with no expectation of return. Can I be generous? Can I give lavishly and thoughtfully with no expectation of return? Will I be willing to give my very best even to a stranger? I certainly hope so.
So Bertha, whoever you are, wherever you are, thank you! Thank you for the beautiful baby clothing. My daughter is all ready wearing them. She looks adorable in them because of you. Thank you.
Thank you, Bertha, for reminding me to give generously, thoughtfully, and lavishly. Thank you for reminding me that what you give to the least of these, you give to Jesus. Thank you for reminding me that what you give to the stranger, you give to Jesus. Thank you, Bertha, whoever you are, wherever you are.
It has been my privilege to know people with this kind of generous spirit in the last few years--it is humbling and inspirational. May we all be more like Bertha.