The Gift This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 19, 2010
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We all go through times in our lives when we stop expecting good things to happen. The assumption that there is nothing else positive to experience overcomes our optimistic attitude and replaces it with one so pessimistic, we are almost unable to maintain our original way for thinking. However, sometimes, all it takes is one incident to show that unexpected events can prove to be beneficial; such an experience happened to me and it showed me that sometimes, that which is completely unexpected and assumed as insignificant turns out, quite unexpectedly, to benefit others.

I was standing there at the register, just holding the dress. The coolness of the material rubbed against my fingertips, and the different shades of purple danced as the lights hit them. That was the dress! Somehow it possessed a sense of importance, and at the same time, I could not ever explain why. The tag told that it cost twenty dollars, and I said a prayer that I had enough.

I handed the sales clerk a store credit and asked the amount on it. She took that piece of cardboard and punched a series of buttons, running it through the register just to tell me that there was ten dollars on the card. I thanked her and headed back to where my friends were waiting, accepting what I thought to be inevitable. I was not buying the dress. For me though, it wasn’t just a dress; it was making up for a whole year of disappointments, waiting for something better to happen.

“There’s only ten dollars on the card,” I said, again looking at the dress. They expressed how sorry they were and how much they wished I could have it, and to this day, I still question the sincerity of their remorse. I pushed thoughts of the dress out of my brain, knowing that what is meant to be will always happen and there is not much to be done about that.

Right as the last thought of the dress started to leave my mind, I felt a light tap my shoulder. I turned slowly only to see a woman in her mid-thirties standing right in front of me. Her appearance, though homely, had a peace to it—a serene nature that I had not encountered in quite some time.

“I couldn’t help but overhear,” she said, glancing at what I held, “but how much did you say that dress was?”

Thinking she was interested in it herself, I answered with no hesitation, “Twenty dollars.”

“And how much did you say you had?” she questioned and shifted her weight from one leg to another.

“I have ten dollars,” I said quizzically because now I had begun to question her motives. She began to open her wallet and before I could say anything put a ten dollar bill into my hand.

“Don’t decline this; consider it a gift that one day you can share with someone else,” she said as she closed my hand around the crisp, new bill. I was speechless. Completely taken aback by the whole situation, I was barely able to muster a simple thank you. She smiled and turned away as she walked to a dressing room and went in.

I am not sure how I got from the dressing room to the register because I do not remember walking. Something about such a simple act of kindness had completely overwhelmed me. I was awakened from my stupor by the attendant at the register, the same one as before.

“That will be ten dollars and thirty-seven cents,” she said, almost mechanically. I, however, was confused; the price on the dress had been twenty dollars. I asked if that was the amount owed after the store credit was used, and she informed me that it was not.

A million thoughts raced through my head at that moment, and once they had cleared, I handed the credit to my friend who was with me and raced back to the dressing room. I looked in every stall, but the woman was gone; I walked all over the store, but she was nowhere to be found.

What was I supposed to do now? I had ten dollars that was very generously given to me that I had not needed after all. I could not spend it myself, and I was unable to locate the person that had given it to me in the first place. My friend broke my thoughts by reminding me of what the woman had said. Was I supposed to pass on this gift to someone else?

We began walking through the mall filled with bustling people, different smells, and so much noise that thoughts were impossible. We walked around aimlessly; I was keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect situation to benefit. Through the chaos, we weaved our way in and out, eventually making our way around the entirety of the building.

We came to a bookstore, and when one walked in, the contrast between it and the rest of the building was uncanny. It was calm, and one could hear their own thoughts. I looked to my left, and there, in the distance, was a familiar face.

He looked worn down and obviously ready for the day to end. He was an old youth pastor of mine, and something pulled me to him. Without saying a word to any of my peers, I made my way to where he was stacking books a few shelves over. When I had gotten right next to him, his eyes slowly came my way. He did not recognize me; it had been several years since I had seen him. Without hesitation, I was able to explain my presence.

“I’m not sure why, but I think I’m supposed to give you this ten dollars,” as I handed the now crumbled bill over to him. The expression he wore implied that he, too, was shocked by receiving the money.

“I don’t know what made you give this to me, but my wife just called me and told me that we were exactly ten dollars short of being over-draft at the bank,” he managed to say before tearing up. “Thank you,” he said as he turned and walked down the long, endless aisles of books.

Somehow I had adopted a new outlook on people’s behavior. For so long I had grown accustomed to bad events outweighing the good, that expecting the worse had become a constant mental standing. Looking back, I realize that while I did not need the monetary gift after all, I feel that I was blessed by merely being a witness of it being paid forward. Occasionally, there are moments that prove that, sometimes, what is unexpected proves to be beneficial to more than just the direct recipient.

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