Robert Fulghum tells a story about his daughter, a few childhood “treasures” and a paper bag. It seems that one morning, his little girl handed Robert two bags as he was about to leave the house. One was his lunch, and she called the second bag, “something else.” He just grabbed them both and went on his way.
At lunch time he ate his real lunch and then briefly explored the contents of the other bag. It held a couple of hair ribbons, some shiny stones, a plastic dinosaur, a marble, a pencil stub, a seashell, two animal crackers, a used lipstick, a small doll, two chocolate kisses and 13 pennies.
As he was rushing off to some afternoon meetings, Robert cleared his desk by shoving all the miscellaneous things into his trashcan. His daughter’s paper bag and her treasures landed among his lunch leftovers. He went home and didn’t give it a thought…. until she asked him about it.
“You didn’t lose the bag, did you Daddy?” Her tears underscored the importance of those items. They really were “something else” to her.
It seems that Robert got in his car and drove back to the office. A night janitor helped him scurry through all the trash bins to find all the treasures. He wiped the mustard off the dinosaur, sprayed some breath-freshener on the stones and marbles, smoothed out the bag and brought it all home.
The next night Robert asked his daughter to tell him about the stuff in the sack. She carefully gave a full account for each piece. Each item had a story and truly meant something to her. All dad could say was, “I see…”
He was surprised that she gave him the bag again several days later. And he felt forgiven. Over the ensuing months and years even, he got that bag many times and treasured each time it came his way. He had learned a very important truth, that crumbled up old bag was a powerful gift. It conveyed the sentiment, “Here, this is the best I’ve got. Take it, it’s yours. Such as I have, I give to thee.”
Rereading that story this week made me wonder if I have been ignoring or devaluing “paper bags” that folks have been handing me. Maybe the “bag” took the form of a very personal prayer request that they shared, maybe it’s was an intimate shame that they revealed, maybe it was a fear that they let me in on, or maybe it was just a bit of insider info.
How am I handling those “gifts?” Am I treasuring the relationship they represent or just moving on by?
This week, let’s all slow down a bit and look for the paper bags. There are treasures everywhere.