So I was driving mindlessly down the street toward the car-wash. Marvin The Martian, my handsome 2013 Toyota Camry, wasn’t looking so handsome. It was time for a shower. As I hit the gas in my powerful new car down Santa Fe, I remembered that she was in Price Chopper. A mixture of whimsy and a longing to surprise hit my chest as if Cupid, himself, had just set free an arrow that penetrated my tired, asleep heart.
Recounting all the sweet-nothings, countless gestures of kindness, cooked meals, free drinks, and hugs that still the choppy waters of my life – if only for just a moment – I realized aside from writing letters, I’d yet to DO anything for her.
Excitement crept into my heart as I found Trudy, her 2015 Corolla. She was still there, picking up groceries for dinner that night. Awesome.
Goofily, I jogged into Price Chopper, power-walking like my Mom might down the front aisles. I kept a steady pace and kept my head down, hoping she wouldn’t spot me and the surprise would be ruined.
Arriving at the floral section of the store, I found the last dozen flowers worthy of her beauty. Roses are red, her eyes are green. Chameleons of shade and ever-changing, they’re constantly serene.
Hurrying to the register, I pay for the roses and head out to the car. There was a family parked nearby, probably waiting on their mother to return with groceries. And in true Justin fashion, I awkwardly looked through the drivers-side window to make sure the peace-sign pendant she has hanging from her rear-view mirror was there (how disappointing it would be to brighten the wrong girl’s day!). I’m sure the kids in the car were becoming worried I was a car-jacker.
But to their surprise, I didn’t steal the car. I took a dozen roses and secured them underneath one of her windshield-wiper blades.
“Mission accomplished,” I skipped off to my car like an excited high-schooler that’d just taken the leap of faith necessary to ask a pretty girl to Prom. And then Marv and I headed to the car-wash…
So why is it that I share this story with you? Well, it’s fun to tell. Also, she’s gorgeous. Her name is Allie. And she’s my girlfriend. Hallelujah. But there’s more to it than that.
You see – we all have a gift. My gift is words and encouragement and letters. Hers would would be random acts of kindness, being a source of comfort, and giving all she can to her friends.
I’m a terrible giver. Gifts are not my gift. For years my poor friends have received letters, while I’ve received probably a thousand dollars worth of Starbucks gift-cards (my bachelors-degree thanks you for your caffeinated blessing). More often than not, I’d rather spend that money on a night at the movies or a couple beers at my favorite bar.
But my world is evolving and I decided to stretch myself, and it felt great. I’d highly recommend it. Perhaps you’re an excellent giver. This is true of many of my friends. They are just naturally gifted in not holding onto their riches for their own sake. They’ll pay for you to join them on that trip, or to keep your caffeine-addiction alive one more day.
But maybe they’re naturally introverted and reclusive. They love to give gifts, but they get uncomfortable when it comes to quality time. What if they spent that extra hour of awkward face-to-face time and invested in seeing where the heart-to-heart conversation could lead that evening with the friend they don’t see that often?
Or maybe they’re naturally very affectionate and affirmative. They love people. They’re the “I just love you, man” guy when they’ve had a few too many drinks. And they’re hugging all the bros in the dorm. But they’re terrified their words aren’t good enough to actually impact another’s life? What if they wrote a letter? What if those words lit a fire within their friend’s heart again?
You may not be good at it now, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck there. I’m learning that we are not defined by our failures. I’m bad with money and not incredibly disciplined with my diet and exercise. But these items do not define me and I can overcome them. I’m bad at gifts, but I’m giving better (see what I did there?). Your level of intelligence and skill in a particular area is not forever-decided-upon. If you stretch yourself, you will grow. If you get a little uncomfortable, it’s a sign you’re learning. That’s great.
So roses are red. And her eyes are green.
Let’s use our gifts and acquire some others, if you know what I mean.
(Up next – a better poem than that ^ in the near future.)