I tucked in my middle son, Gabe just like every night. Next to his face and covered up snuggly was his Night Night Bear. Night Night Bear was purchased in a craft store near Branson Missouri when my oldest, Josiah was a baby. I had no intention of buying that home-made stuffed bear wearing a zebra costume. He sat up firmly all those years ago. He now slumps over as years of hugs and cuddles has worn out his stuffing.
Twelve years ago Josiah grabbed the bear-mutant-zebra from a shelf and as babies do, promptly stuffed it in his mouth before I could pry it out of his hands. Feeling guilty about putting a soggy, spit-covered bear un-purchased back on the shelf, I bought it, grudgingly.
Night Night Bear’s colors have faded and he has a few inexplicable stains for added color now too, though I promise I wash him from time to time. Worn from sleeping next to my son every night since he was a baby and being dragged along for overnight sleep-overs with grandma, he’s become an integral part of my son’s life. I’ve even had to make special trips when he’s been forgotten to make sure he doesn’t “get lonely.” He’s accompanied my son to the hospital, on vacations, and comforted many late night sob fests.
As I mindlessly went through the motions of tucking him in last night a stray thought hit me.
I thought of the woman (or man) who created Night Night Bear to sell at a craft bazzar. I bet she couldn’t have imagined her creation would have ever been so loved, would be adopted, and be grafted in as such an integral part of someone’s family. I smiled thinking of her and the inadvertent impact she had made on us. Then another thought occurred to me. What if she had not created Night Night Bear or ever tried to sell him that day?
How many times have I left a moment of inspiration unattended? Or a desire to create something and launch it out into the universe but hesitated and let the moment pass by? How many times have I let fear of rejection, or failure, or even busyness intrude and abandon my desire to give my gift to the world?
What if the maker of Night Night Bear would’ve second guessed herself and decided dressing a bear up like a zebra was a stupid idea? What if she decided her price was not worth the time and effort for such a project? What if she decided to be lazy and Netflix all day instead?
There’s no way for this stranger to ever know the impact of the gift she decided to put out into the universe.
I thought of other gifts people have put out into the universe that I’ve found, picked up and carried around with me for life’s crazy journeys.
Books I’ve read that changed my perspective. An inspirational blog whose encouragement showed up when I felt like giving up. They gave a gift of words.
When I feel alone and taken advantage of, I remember sweet moments spent with a friend and remember that I am loved. They gave a gift of friendship.
After severing ties with someone whose friendship ended after a hurtful season, an olive branch was extended. This year a slow process of healing and mending was initiated. They gave a gift of forgiveness.
I look around my room and see sweet little tokens, reminders of friendship and thoughtfulness from tinkerers who love to craft their Pinterest-worthy experiments. They gave a gift of talent.
To candlemakers, to writers, to photographers, to telephone callers, to card makers and crafters, to bakers, to teddy-bear- dressed-like-a- zebra-makers.
Whenever you can and whatever you can throw out into the world, GIVE YOUR GIFT.
I know it’s scary sometimes. We feel insecure, overwhelmed, unimportant, or busy. Don’t shove your craft supplies in a forgotten corner cabinet. Don’t fill up your schedule so full you forget to just relax with a friend in a small coffee shop giving your gift of a listening ear. Don’t talk yourself out of setting up that podcast or writing that book, or making that phone call just to say hi. Send that snail mail hand written letter. Take that picture, and send all the gifts into the world.
We don’t know which ones will stick. Which we will carry with us, tuck in with us at night, remember in a tough spot, march with us into battle. Which gift will become so tattered and worn from using that someone can’t even remember life without it.