It is hard to believe that this is already Thanksgiving week. Before it slips past us, I'd like once again to share one of my favorite memories of giving. If you read my memos you have read it before. For me, it is a reminder to cherish each other, and to be present with each other, so I like to revisit it.
Jimmy Ciglar lived in a room at the YMCA and frequented the restaurant where I waited tables during my college years. Each day he would walk over to the restaurant, request to sit at my table, and order a single cup of coffee. Even though he couldn't afford to, he always left a dollar tip. Jimmy was probably near 100 years old, toothless and frail. His face, drawn, wrinkled, and waxy with age, could have been a poster image for centenarians. When he smiled, however, a light of joy illumined his face and leapt right out into my heart. Jimmy and I became quite a pair. He loved to make me laugh, and I loved to see him smile. He lived off Social Security checks, and the trips to the restaurant were his daily entertainment.
When I became engaged, I took a wedding invitation to the restaurant and gave it to Jimmy. He was touched and embarrassed, so we teased about how dashing he would look in a top hat and tails. When I first thought of giving him the invitation, I didn't realize what it would mean to him to be invited, or how impossible it would be for him to come.
My last day of work came, and before leaving town for my wedding I waited on Jimmy one last time. Jimmy was in the booth waiting for me when I arrived for my shift. He beamed his smile at me, took off his wristwatch, and presented it to me as my wedding gift. It was a man's silver wind-up timepiece, old and worn, and it would not have been more beautiful to me had it been studded with diamonds.
Jimmy studied my face as I paused, taking in the magnitude of the moment. This was the gift of gifts. Jimmy could not afford to give it and I could not afford to turn it away. We joked about how I would now surely be on time for my wedding. Jimmy and I never saw each other again after that day. But I can still picture the beautiful smile that filled my heart and touched my soul. I wore that watch for a long time afterward, to remind myself that the gift itself is in the giving.
There is joy in giving, and Jimmy helped me to understand that joy. I was poignantly reminded that it is not the size of the gift that matters, but the love behind it. I wish you all the gift of love, and the joy of giving this Thanksgiving, and always.