The Gift is What’s Within

I've been fighting a bad cold for a week now and finally decided yesterday that I needed to just "shut down" and get some rest so that I could get over this thing. As a result, I've had time to catch up on a lot of "paperwork" and stuff that needed to be done for awhile, and now... being caught up, was organizing a lot of my stuff, especially my photography stuff that had been tossed aside "until later."  As I was working on this I began to think about some of the people in my photographs. I want to try to be careful with how I say this, but some of the people who I once thought of as "beautiful" I just don't see them that way any longer. And then there are those that most of society would look at them and lump them into the "average" category when it comes to looks... but I've come to know them and they are some of the most beautiful people I know. Suffice it to say, looks can be deceiving.  It's kind of like that wrapped present you see in the picture here. It looks really nice, doesn't it? But like all those other beautifully wrapped presents you see at the Mall or department store... they are empty, and have no value. There are a lot of people like that.

I remember when I was young and single, and thought of myself as a "ladies man." I was pretty bad at having girls I was "dating" in different cities and lying to them all about their being the only one. I used them and was often cruel. I had a very good friend who thought enough of me to do take a drastic step to try to reach me. For my birthday one year, she gave me a gift that was beautifully wrapped and had several pieces of my favorite chocolate tied to the bow. She told me that I could not open it until we were alone, so it was set aside until late that night and she asked me to drive her home. Siting in her drive way, she asked me to open it.  As I began to open it, I remember my heart was pounding. Secretly, I had deep feelings for Linda and I was sure I was about to find out the same thing from her. As I pulled the ribbons from the package, she said to me, "Please don't ever forget that I did this for you because I love you." My heart raced as I pulled the paper off and then as I opened the box, I saw a baggie filled with dirt. I looked at her filled with confusion, and Linda said to me something like this, "You are a pretty package that leaves everyone attracted to you, but inside, you are dirt! I'm done chasing after you, and I hope you wake up one day."  I'd love to tell you that it worked, but it didn't. I lost one of the dearest friends I ever had in my life that day, and we have never spoken since that night in her driveway. But the truth is, she was absolutely right. I never really understood what Linda was telling me... or maybe I refused to admit it, until years later. I was dirt. I was worse than that. All I knew back then was how to use people.

As I looked at my photos again today, I was suddenly reminded of that night in Linda's driveway. There are pictures in my portfolio of people who on the outside are just gorgeous. But I know these people... and they are ugly. They are mean spirited and filled with hatred. Knowing what I know about them, I don't even see the outside as beautiful any longer. I look at them and all I feel is sadness for them because they have no clue as to what true beauty is.  A funny, but true story to bring this all together. When I was in junior high school, I recall one Christmas where all I really wanted was an air hockey table. I knew our family really could not afford one, so I was not expecting to get that. Christmas came and the family began opening gifts and there were many wonderful surprises there and I was happy. Finally, my sister said, "you still have one to open." There was a very small box wrapped in wrinkled paper with scribbles on a tag that I had assumed was just one of the "gifts" my little niece, Jami and wrapped and put under the tree. She was about 4 at the time and she had done several "gifts" this way. I took the paper off the box and it was a collapsed box that a deck of cards came in. I laughed and hugged her for the gift, but she said, "Open it."  I looked inside the box, and there was a picture of an air hockey table, and a note that said it had been ordered and was on back order but should be in soon.

Sometimes, we find the greatest joy and beauty in packages that seem to be of insignificance. Packages lie. They don't always show you what is on the inside.

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