The Smallest Gift


During our adoption trips to China, we were encouraged to take small gifts for the guides and caretakers that we would meet during the process. The suggestions for those gifts included items like chocolate, t-shirts, baseball caps, note pads and so on. And we did give those kinds of gifts on the first three trips. But for our last two visits to China we broadened the scope of our gifts. We gave the Fuzhou orphanage a digital camera (everyone in the states wanted pictures of their soon-to-be child and the orphanage did not have a digital camera). On that trip we also visited the Xiamen orphanage and bought them a heavy-duty clothes washer (the director wrote us a very nice thank you note and gave us a picture of the washing machine running a load of clothes). Our last trip was to Hefei; we bought a solar-powered water heater for one of the family buildings (they had been without hot water there for several months). In each of these cases, we were able to fill a need that each location had. But the most meaningful gifts we gave were not nearly so large in scope.

Our first adopted daughter came from Xiamen; we did not get to visit the city on her adoption trip, but we did get to go there later (where we had bought the washing machine). While we were there, we gave the caretakers a small photo album of Chu Hong (her Chinese name). She had been with us five years at that time so we made the album of her growth through those years. Two of the caretakers had been her caretakers when she was there in the orphanage. As they leafed through the photos, tears welled up in their eyes. I heard them speaking to each other and smiling with each picture. These caretakers are heroes in my mind. I doubt that they get many chances to see how their kids turn out in America. But that day we got to share that with them and it made them very happy. They each thanked us in Chinese (one of the few Chinese phrases I recognize). We could see in their faces the joy that this small gift had given them. It was a special moment for all of us.

Two years earlier, we were in Changji in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region visiting the small orphanage. We learned that one of our daughter’s best friends there was a little girl named Ji Ping. She suffered from dwarfism and was never made available for adoption by the government. Ji Ping knew that her friends were going to America and leaving her behind. We wanted to do something for Ji Ping but had not been prepared since we did not know about her until we arrived at the orphanage. Charlotte scrounged up a pair of mittens and we gave them to Ji Ping as we were leaving. Her countenance change immediately; she slipped the mittens onto her hands and showed everyone standing around the bus. She came to us and thanked us (in Chinese) then went back showing off her new mittens. It was an overwhelming moment.

I have thought about Ji Ping from time to time since then. Those mittens probably came from the thrift store or a garage sale. But for Ji Ping, these were gold – a gift from an American for someone who was an afterthought in her own land. For us, the gift was small, but for her it was a valued possession. A few years later we received a photo of Ji Ping – she was wearing those mittens!

Never had a gift so small resulted in a thank you so great.

Epilog: I just happened to be reading in 2 Corinthians today:

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

Some believe these verses speak of monetary remuneration, but I think it goes much deeper than that. These verses clearly indicate that giving that expects nothing in return is greatly rewarded. Our rewards for the picture book to the caretakers and the mittens of Ji Ping were much more profound than any monetary reward we might have received.

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