ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

GRATITUDE FIRST

Iím not exactly sure why I gave the necklace to Kayla.

I had an extra necklace. Kayla was sitting in front of me at church. It just seemed like the thing to do.

Now, keep in mind that Iím talking about a candy necklace here Ė nothing special at all. It was just a stringy circle of elastic with multi-colored candies strung around it. I had given them to the 10-year-olds to whom I have been teaching Old Testament stories for the past year (what, you donít see the connection between candy necklaces and the Old Testament?) and I had an extra one (well, actually I had an extra three, but my two youngest children, Jon and Elizabeth, were already wearing two of them around their respective necks, with candy fragments already glistening on their respective lips).

Kayla, on the other hand, is quite special indeed. She has long dark hair. Gorgeous eyes. A beautiful smile. The sweetest voice youíve ever heard. And sheís 6. In all the world, there is nothing so wonderfully adorable as a 6-year-old girl.

Which is probably why I gave the necklace to her. Iím a sucker for that stuff.

When I slipped the necklace into her hand she smiled that beautiful smile of hers, and I considered myself adequately thanked. Then I settled back to enjoy the church meeting. As enthralling as church was that day, I did notice a couple of things about Kayla. For one thing, although she wore the candy necklace around her neck, I didnít see her actually eating the candy. By way of comparison, Jon had his necklace consumed and was asking for more before we sang the final "Alleluia" in the opening hymn.

The other thing I noticed was that she seemed quite intent on something she was drawing. From my vantage point, I couldnít see what it was. But whatever it was, it certainly had her attention Ė so much so that she paid almost no attention to the candy strung around her neck.

The candy I had given to her.

When the service ended I stood to leave. Then I noticed something small and cute in the aisle beside me. It was Kayla. She didnít say a word. She just handed a piece of paper to me. It was the picture that she had been working on throughout the meeting. It showed a tall stick figure man with glasses and most of his hair, holding a candy necklace in his hand. Next to him was a shorter stick figure girl with long dark hair, gorgeous eyes and a beautiful smile. Over her head was a cartoon balloon with these words: "Thank you."

It was a lovely gift, and a marvelous work of art Ė far more valuable than the candy bauble I had presented to her. As I thanked her for her gift, I noticed that she was finally starting to eat the candy that I had given to her.

"It looks like your Daddy wouldnít let you eat your candy until after church," I observed.

She shook her head seriously.

"I could eat it," she said, shyly. "I just wanted to say Ďthank youí first."

I was touched by her gesture and inspired by her message. It was so important to her to say "thank you" that she couldnít really enjoy the treat until she had expressed her gratitude.

Thatís why thereís a new piece of art in the gallery that is beginning to fill the nooks and crannies of my office. Kaylaís picture is the first to be so enshrined that wasnít created by one of my offspring. Iím including it as a way of reminding me to be grateful.

First.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.