I was sitting at the table in the Streicher House, a day-center shelter for the homeless people in Nevada County, California, and looked up as one of the homeless folks threw open the door and dashed in carrying this plant specimen. It was very long and pine cone in appearance, but odd at the same time. You could tell he was excited and pleased with his find. He whizzed by me asking for Pauli and it became instantly clear that he wanted to give this found item to Pauli as a gift.
She came from the kitchen and he held it out to her, like an offering, a special gift for a person he liked and wanted to please. It was as if he had gone to Tiffany's and found a diamond Cartier bracelet and could barely contain his excitement and joy when presenting it.
It was touching and sobering. It was a gift of finding and sharing a thing of nature and beauty. He couldn't go to a store and buy something, but he found something in nature, in the woods where he walks and lives, and he saw such beauty, it became a gift.
Mostly, he was so rushed and excited to give it to Pauli, someone who cares for him and the other homeless folks at the center. She feeds them, sees they get services, clothes, and help.
You could tell he was looking for her surprise and gratitude.
She took the gift, admiring it all the while, and put it on the bookcase in the living room for all to see and admire; like showcasing a special painting or statue. Everyone gathered around and made a fuss about how interesting it was and how special. Everyone was pleased and happy, the gift-giver especially proud of his find, and that he had given it to someone he cared about.
It was just a piece of a plant but it symbolizes so much:
That not all gifts of love and appreciation come from stores.
That homeless people are deeply grateful and thoughtful.
That giving an opportunity to show love and appreciation is fundamental to a person's well-being.
That in a small town, in a small forest, a small gift made a huge sense of joy for someone who had nothing to give and a volunteer worker who had everything to receive.
It was a beautiful moment.