Column: Sharing time with teen proved the perfect way to renew spirit

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 11, 2005

Each week something happens which renews my spirit. Sometimes it’s a big thing; sometimes it’s something small, such as watching two deer walk through our yard on a recent Sunday morning on their way to … well, wherever it is deer go when they’re out for a stroll.

Living on the outer skirts of Albert Lea and with a field for a backyard, we saw plenty of deer last fall and were elated. This was my first deer sighting since the corn was harvested this year and it lightened my heart.

This week, my spirit was renewed with something big. I am a member of the Noon Kiwanis group

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which spearheaded a shopping night for kids Tuesday, as it has for many years. A number of fellow Kiwanians arrived at Wal-Mart &045; which was so helpful and accommodating for this special project &045; and were paired with a child who needed help picking out Christmas gifts. The club covers the cost of the gifts &045; and Wal-Mart provides space for gift wrapping.

The young lady I was paired with was a delightful 14-year-old. For those of you with 14-year-olds, &8220;delightful&8221; probably isn’t an adjective you’d pick most of the time &045; it certainly wasn’t on my tongue often when I had 14-year-olds &045; but this teen was great.

I worried at first that she might be sullen or shy; that we’d have nothing in common to talk about &045; chit chat is not my strength &045; or that I would do or say something &8220;totally uncool.&8221;

While I probably wasn’t cool, we seemed to hit it off. She was thankful she hadn’t been paired with a guy and I was glad she was willing to talk to me.

As we headed out, I began asking questions: Did she have an idea what she wanted to purchase for her siblings and parent; she did. She was hung up about what to get her older brother &045; clothes was out; X-box games didn’t fit into her &8220;budget.&8221; We decided to wait to decide on his gift.

She drove the cart and we made a beeline for the toy section: She had younger siblings: One wanted a game, the other pretend makeup.

My new friend’s face fell when she saw the price of the game &045; it was out of her price range. I tried to save the day with a suggestion which she accepted and we moved on.

In the end, this teen got the gifts for her family that she wanted to give them &045; without breaking her pocketbook; and I was pleased to have helped her.

As we talked about her choices, it was difficult not to learn about her family: It was obvious she had a good relationship with them, and in particular, her mother. I appreciate it when I hear this sentiment, especially from a teenager. It tells me parents are working well with their kids and it is reflected in the level of genuine respect the kids have for them.

As we walked to the back of the store where Wal-Mart had set aside a room to wrap the gifts, my friend announced she was proud of the gifts she had picked out. It was going to be so much fun when her family opened their gifts at Christmas, she said. I wished I could be there because she had made good choices. I pictured her mom and brother and sisters opening their presents

to reveal the &8220;perfect&8221; gifts she had so thoughtfully chosen for them.

I assisted my young friend in wrapping her presents by pulling off tape tabs which she then applied to the wrapping paper. She used just three pieces of tape per gift. Anxious three pieces of tape would never contain the gift in its wrapping paper, I told her how my family teases me about my tape application &045; the more I apply, the better I feel about the gift staying wrapped. Of course, I probably use too much tape, but it’s my way.

My friend &8220;hmmm-ed&8221; at the conclusion of my story, but kept to her strict limit of three pieces of tape. Occasionally, I’d quickly and with great guilt, add an additional strip of tape, but mostly I fought the urge to overtape her presents.

In the end, I offered her a couple of gift-wrapping tricks I’ve picked up on over the years and we called it a night.

I left the store with a light heart and feeling more in the holiday spirit than I have so far this season, even when making my own gift purchases.

May I encourage you to donate financially to the Salvation Army, another favorite charity or food to the food shelves this year?

The cost is minimal but the feeling you get from your generosity is priceless.