In third grade, I had a teacher named Mr. Slocum. I adored Mr. Slocum. He was really old (though since I looked at him from an 8 year old perspective, he might not have been as ancient as I remember) but he was so nice.
At some point early in the year, maybe Christmas time, I was at the grocery store with my mom and we picked out a fruit basket to give him as a gift. I loved giving gifts so I was thrilled to bring it in to him.
At the very end of the year, I was getting something from some storage cabinets that sat along the side of our classroom. I opened a drawer, and there was my lovely fruit basket, nasty and rotten, the cellephane unbroken.
I was crushed.
I quickly closed the drawer and walked away, but the moment is burned in my brain. An image that stuck with me for many years.
Sometimes I think about that little girl skipping into the classroom bringing a gift to her teacher and my heart just breaks. Not because I was the girl, but because this happens to us all the time. We open ourselves up, like a flower, then a cold blast of wind snaps us shut. My early years were, unfortunately, full of moments like this, simple moments that cut deeply.
To be honest, it still happens. Times when I give of myself with joy only to face rejection.
But oh, how wonderful, to know that God is different than people. It's so easy to think that our gift becomes worthless when it is rejected by someone. The time we gave, the money we spent or the thoughtfulness that was just ignored ending up just like that rotten fruit in the drawer. When I was a kid, I didn't know God. I didn't know that God loved me and that even though Mr. Slocum let that fruit rot in the drawer, God saw the gift I gave, and received it.
Now, when I see a gift I've given dropped to the ground, I can lift my face and offer it to God. I can remember that while people may fail us, God never does. When I give now, I can give freely, with no expectation, and trust that my gift is going straight to heaven regardless of what happens here on Earth.
God takes pleasure in you, and your gifts to Him will never fall to the ground. Isn't that nice to know?
(And believe me - having just found another basket of rotting fruit, I take comfort knowing that everything I just said to you is true - even when I have to remind myself of it!)