A Gift of Love
By Dr. La Wanna Parker
“Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.” ~ Bertrand Russell
Lillie put her bags of groceries back on the counter, jerked her purse straps off her arm, and laid the purse on the counter.
“Stupid purse,” she said to herself. She grabbed her bags and left the store. She mumbled about the problems and troubles she had as an older woman living alone.
One block to go. These bags get heavier with every step.
“Hey, hey. Ma’am. Ma’am.” Lillie heard someone yell and the sound of running steps that sounded closer. Lillie didn’t stop or look back. She tried to walk a little faster.
A young black kid stepped in front of her, forcing her to make a sudden stop. He bent over with his hands on his knees as he attempted to catch his breath.
“Ma’am,” he said. “You left your purse at the store.” He handed it to her. She looked at it, then at him.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said with a warm, friendly smile.
Lillie started to put the bags down. He reached out to take them from her. She immediately drew back, pulled them closer to her, and held them tighter.
“It’s okay, ma’am. I’m just going to help you carry your bags.” He pulled them gently from her hands.
“Which way?” he asked.
She continued to look at him, a little doubtful. After a moment or two, she pointed down the street but still stood in place. The young man waited. Finally, Lillie began to walk. He walked beside her.
“My name is Jamal. What’s yours?”
“Pretty name. You need someone to help you. This is too much for you to carry alone.”
Lillie grunted under her breath. If I had someone to help, I would not be alone struggling with these bags, dumb kid. She didn’t verbally answer. She kept walking, wondering if she had done the right thing, letting him take her bags.
Lillie stopped at a white house that had a porch with a swing on one side and a table for two on the other side. Red, pink, and orange roses ran along the side of the porch. The house looked warm and cozy—a place to feel welcomed, loved, and safe.
She walked to the porch, put her purse down, and turned to take her bags from Jamal. He walked past her and set her bags down near the door.
“It was nice to meet you, Lillie. If I’m at the store the next time you check out, I’ll help you carry your bags.” He gave her the same friendly smile and left.
Lillie watched him leave, still perplexed as to why he helped her. At least she didn’t have to carry her groceries home by herself. She took the bags into her house. Now, what do I fix for dinner?
These were the times when she felt alone in the world. She and her husband had come here from China but had not made many friends. Since her husband’s death, the few friends had disappeared. They were not blessed with children, and since they were raised in an orphanage, they had no family.
Lillie thought of Jamal often. Why did he help her?Should she trust him? She missed her husband. He always knew what to do.
The next time Lillie went to the store, she stood in line to check out. Deep in thought, she jumped when she felt a tap on her shoulder. Jamal stood smiling at her, and she couldn’t hold back her happy smile. He helped bag her groceries. Together they walked out of the store.
It became their routine whenever she went to the store. Jamal did most of the talking. Sometimes, she laughed out loud. They shared stories about themselves. She learned Jamal had been in the foster care system. He was nineteen, working part-time, and taking a writing class at the local community college.
One day, she invited him to have iced tea on her porch. They had lunch on her porch when he had a Saturday or Sunday off. She felt the respect and love he showed her, and she gave it back.
Jamal insisted they dress up for Halloween and sit on the porch to pass out candy. Lillie shivered from the cold, but she wouldn’t change a thing.
For Thanksgiving, they had Chinese food and traditional American dishes. Jamal cooked the turkey after watching a YouTube channel to learn how. They enjoyed it as if a gourmet chef had prepared it. Jamal ate every bit of the Chinese food Lillie made.
He helped Lillie trim her home with a tree, lights, and other Christmas decorations.
“It is the first time since my husband died that I have decorated my house. It feels good.”
“I didn’t get to do any decorating while in foster care,” Jamal said.
“You spend Christmas Eve here at my house. Then we can open presents and have breakfast together on Christmas morning. No time to be alone and sad. You stay. I insist.”
Jamal stared at her for a while. Then a huge smile broke out on his face, and he grabbed her in a big hug. Lillie didn’t say anything, but she had seen the tears in his eyes. Her eyes felt damp too.
Christmas morning, Lillie and Jamal tore open their gifts. She received a sweater and scarf. Jamal modeled the coat and gloves Lillie gave him. He had written, “Merry Christmas to the best mom any kid could have in the Christmas card. I love you, Jamal.”
Lillie put her arms around him and cried until there were no more tears. He held her, patting her back and saying, over and over, “It’s all right.” Jamal’s heart was overwhelmed by the love he felt for this woman.
Lillie was happy. She was no longer alone, and she was now a mother. She had received the gift of love.
The greatest gift you can give someone is your love and time. I hope you enjoyed the story. Until next time, stay safe, and keep the faith.