Lydia Benedict, “Gift from the Heart,” Friend, Jan 1995, 40
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (
As Tyler climbed out of Grandpa’s truck, the cold January wind off Boston Harbor whipped at his face. With each breath, a tiny cloud of fog appeared in front of him. “This is Boston, Grandpa?”
Not waiting for an answer, he continued eagerly, “Where is Boston Garden? And Fenway Park—where is Fenway Park, Grandpa?”
Smiling, Grandpa answered, “Put your scarf on, and then I’ll show you where everything is.”
Wrapping his scarf close around his face, he followed his grandfather. As they walked, Tyler saw a man sit down and take a huge army knapsack off his back. Sitting next to the man was a black Labrador retriever wearing a guide-dog harness. Tyler noticed that the dog’s shaggy fur was scruffy as it looked at him in apparent misery on the cold pavement.
He looked from the dog to the man, who had now set up a small keyboard, amplifier, and generator.
It was obvious that the man was blind as he fumbled to find the power switch. His hands were cracked and bleeding as he placed an old, battered cap upside-down on the ground and began to play. The man smiled politely and said thank you whenever he heard coins drop into the hat.
“Why is that man playing outside in such cold weather, Grandpa?”
“He probably doesn’t have a home,” Grandpa answered solemnly.
“Unfortunately, some of the street performers in the shopping district are homeless.”
Tyler pulled his coat tighter about himself and thought of his own warm home.
When Grandpa dropped him off at home that night, Tyler went straight to his room. Taking his piggy bank from his dresser, he opened it and dumped the contents onto his bed. Slowly he counted first his bills, then his coins. Nineteen dollars and fifty-eight cents.
He lifted the bank up to his face and peered into the hole in the bottom. Reaching in with two fingers, he pulled out a folded catalog page. He unfolded it and admired the fishing pole that he had been planning to get for his grandfather. Now, however, even though Grandpa’s birthday was only two days away, Tyler couldn’t forget the blind man’s cracked hands or the dog’s sad eyes.
The next day after school, Tyler emptied the contents of the piggy bank into his coat pocket, borrowed his little sister’s red wagon, and walked to the store. Twenty minutes later he left it, his pockets no longer jingling with change. Instead, one pocket bulged with a new pair of wool gloves, and his wagon creaked under the weight of a large bag of dog food.
After parking the wagon in the garage, Tyler went to his room. Grandpa’s birthday was only a day away, and Tyler still had no gift to give him. Searching his room, he found the ceramic pot he had made in art class. Dumping out the loose baseball cards in it, he took a closer look.
Well, it’s blue, and that’s Grandpa’s favorite color, he thought, trying to convince himself that his grandfather would like it. He cleaned it up, then sat down with a pencil and a sheet of paper and began to write:
For your birthday, I wanted to get you something you would really like. I know that to really help people, we are to give as much as we can to fast offerings, but this gift is a sort of remembrance of our wonderful day in Boston together. …
When he finished, he stuck the note and the creased picture of the fishing pole inside the ceramic pot and wrapped it.
The next evening, his stomach felt as though he had eaten stone soup instead of the wonderful birthday dinner his grandmother had prepared. Grandpa is going to be awfully disappointed at my present, he thought sadly as Grandma brought out the candle-lit cake.
When it was time for Grandpa to open his gifts, he reached for Tyler’s package first. Tyler held his breath as he watched his grandfather’s face. When Grandpa finished reading the note in the pot, he smiled at Tyler, his blue eyes twinkling.
The following Saturday, Tyler and his grandfather were back in Boston. Grandpa carried the dog food, and he carried the wool gloves. Rounding the corner, Tyler saw a number of street performers. Straining his eyes, he spotted the blind man and his dog at the end of the block. Approaching him, Tyler said, “Excuse me, sir.”
The man continued to play, but turned his head in the direction of the boy’s voice.
“I have something for you. I paid for it with my own money.”
The man stopped playing his keyboard, and Tyler handed him the gloves. As he felt the wool gloves, a huge smile spread across the man’s face.
“Also,” Tyler quickly went on, “I brought a bag of food for your dog.”
Now the man spoke, his voice husky. “Thank you, boy. Thank you.”
As Grandpa set down the heavy bag, Tyler noticed the Lab’s ears perk up. And when he glanced back later, he saw that the man was wearing the new gloves while he gave his dog some of the food.
Tyler looked up to see Grandpa’s eyes twinkling again. “I’ll treasure the pot,” Grandpa said, “but I like this gift even better.”
[illustrations] Illustrated by Robert T. Barrett^ Back to top