Teaching generosity

My father took my brother and me to the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  My mother couldn’t go with us, for reasons which now escape me, so it was very important that we bring back the perfect gift for her.  Among an array of necklaces with bronze pendants at the Greek pavilion, my brother chose the one whose medallion showed a woman in profile and hung suspended from a leather strap.  I was sure my mother would prefer the one with the silver chain and the illustration of a fawn, and argued energetically on its behalf.  My father heard us out, and then bought them both, giving the one with the fawn on it to me.  "I wasn’t hinting!" I said.  "I know," said my father.  "That’s why I got it for you."

Forty-some years later, I realize that this is a story with multiple meanings (though it seems too trivial now to ask why my brother actually got to decide on my mother’s gift: because he was older?  Because he was the boy?)–but until this very day I carried away only one: that you get rewarded for not thinking about yourself.  Not a very important lesson, of course–just the one around which I’ve organized my whole life.

A thought for those of you who might be shopping with kids this time of year.


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