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A Box of Gratitude This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The church hall was crowded when I pushed the door open. Great, I thought. Just great. I had been nothing but chipper the whole morning, sitting through the service, talking to a plethora of people, always smiling. I was running out of fake merriment. My mother, of course, had selected a tactical position at the far end of the room. It would take me at least half a dozen polite conversations with other church-goers before I could get close enough to drag her away from her socializing. Today was especially crowded because there was a charity event for families in India.

Now don't get me wrong, I love to do my part. But today my patience was running low. So I started the expedition to my mother, avoiding eye contact and nonchalantly dodging every conversation starter thrown my way.

When I finally reached her, she said, “I give you points for persistence.” Even I couldn't deny the comedic nature of our usual routine. “I know you want to leave but I can't yet. I have twelve spots left on the board. Mind sticking around for another half hour?” Her casual assumption that I would be glad to throw away another half hour of my life was frustrating. However, I knew there was really no way around her need to stay, and so we would.

“Fine,” I surrendered, scanning the room for someone under the age of 80 to talk to. On my way over to my friend Olivia, I noticed a pile of pamphlets. I picked one up and started thumbing through it. Uniforms and school books: $30; Medication, vaccinations, and protective bug netting: $26; Wheelchairs: $75. I continued to look through the booklet, scanning the prices with all of the opportunities until I got to the back cover. There, written in silver script, was one sentence: This Christmas give the gift of life. Cheesy and cliché as that might be, I decided to donate.

I selected a chicken farm for $15, which would provide food, income, and hope to a family for many years. I went to the booth where many donors were waiting to make a difference in someone else's life. I inched along in line until I reached the pile of manila folders and the smiling representative.

“Would you like to select a family? Or may I select one for you?” she asked.

“Umm …” I shifted uneasily. “I'm fine with anybody.” She selected a file from her looming stack and pulled out a paper containing info on a family whose lives, she promised, I would change. Then she handed me a package, saying, “This family requested that their donor receive this.”

I took the delicately wrapped package and made my way to the nearest windowsill to sit. My fingers moved to the seal on the delicate bag. I removed the thin brown paper, and what I found was unexpected.

It was a small pewter box with painted stones. I ran my fingers over the box. I didn't understand. Why had I received this? I lifted the delicate lid. The interior was lined with worn blue fabric that had been glued in with a sticky brown substance that leaked slightly over the rim. In that instant I realized something: A family with nothing had given me something. My impatience from that morning faded, and I decided I needed to do more to deserve this. I picked up another pamphlet and thumbed through the pages, marking everything I could afford. I got back in line and waited until I reached the front.

“Haven't I seen you before?” the lady asked, smiling. I told her that I wanted to add to my ­donation. And within two minutes I had sent medication, food, clothing, and other aid packages to my sponsored family.

When I had finished paying, I went to find my mom.

“You made a donation?” she asked, nodding toward my box. “Thanks for the extra time. Ready to go?” Admittedly I was glad I had stayed. I thought about how petty my impatience had been.

“Hey, Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“I'm sorry if I rushed you.” I felt the last of my bad mood dissolve as my mother assured me she hadn't felt rushed.

During the ride home, I held the box, tracing its unique pattern. I looked out the window as houses and people flew by. I knew I would never look at them the same way again. The life I led was a blessing. I truly understood that now.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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