By Juanita Mason-Fegley, an ASC Sojourner

According to legend, there was a young man roaming the desert who came across a spring of delicious, crystal-clear water. The water was so sweet, he filled his leather canteen so he could bring some back to a tribal elder who had been his teacher. After a four-day journey, he presented the water to the old man who took a deep drink, smiled warmly, and thanked his student lavishly for the sweet water. The young man returned to his village with a happy heart.

Later, the teacher let another student taste the water, who spat it out saying, “It was awful.” It apparently had become stale because of the old leather container. The student challenged his teacher, “Master, the water was foul. Why did you pretend to like it?” The teacher replied, “You only tasted the water. I tasted the gift. The water was simply the container for an act of loving kindness and nothing could be sweeter.”

Many of us, having been teachers, understand this lesson best because of the many innocent gifts we received from young children over the years of our teaching experiences. Whether it’s a ceramic “ashtray” or a macaroni bracelet, the natural and proper response is appreciation.

Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally. Unfortunately, many of us value only the thing given, rather than the feeling embodied in it. We should remind ourselves about the beauty and purity of feelings and expressions of gratitude. After all, gifts from the heart are really gifts of the heart.

I wish you all Gifts of the Heart this Christmas Season.