I came across a thought-provoking question last week, while attending a church youth group meeting (I'm one of the leaders). During the meeting each person was asked this question:
"Describe a special gift you've been given, who gave it to you and why it was special."
Of course, I had an immediate answer: my wife Gail and son Nathan, given to me by God, which are obviously very special to me. Gail is the love of my life and best friend, Nathan is the cutest little son anyone could ask for (well, except when he's wriggling like a wild boar when trying to change his poopy diapers).
I also thought of two objects off the top of my head. First, my el-cheapo Krups espresso maker, given to me years ago at Christmas by my brother Pete, which I use several times per week to make cafe lattes and cappuccinos. Second, was the vacuum metal miGo brand coffee mug given to me by Gail for our first anniversary. I use this mug daily to keep my coffee hot or cold beverages cold.
However, over the past week, that question had been bouncing around in my head, and I came up with other gifts I could recall being "special". One in particular surfaced from my deeper memory several days later: a special gift given to me on my paper route.
I was a paper boy for several years, starting with my brother's route late in high school and then graduating to my own route not long after that. Near the end of my paper boy days, I developed an interest in photography and in particular, shooting black and white photos with an old Minolta SRT-102 SLR. Naturally, I began to take my old camera on my route to find interesting subjects.
One afternoon while doing my route, I chose to photograph Mr. Hauptman, a friendly older gentleman and his dog "Hoppy" near the end of my route. I always liked to stop and visit this man, chatting about the weather while petting Hoppy. Over time, it had become a ritual to pop by and say hello. So, I came up with the idea of taking a photo of Mr. Hauptman and Hoppy, and later give him a print of my photo, which I did.
I think it was the week after I'd dropped off the photo of he and Hoppy that Mr. Hauptman said he had a gift for me. He brought out an old looking yellow box and gave it to me. It took a moment to read the box, which read "Kodak Vigilant Six-20" in a 1940s stylized font. Wow... I'd been given me a vintage camera!
We opened up the box and there sat a vintage bellows-style Kodak camera. Incredible! I couldn't believe that Mr. Hauptman was had given me such a precious gift. I thanked him profusely. Within a few days I had located some old-style 620 size film and brought the camera back to shoot a photo of the pair again as a thank you.
I've always remembered that first old camera as a very special gift. Not surprisingly, that old Kodak bellows camera was the very thing which gave me the passion for collecting other vintage cameras, and even shooting film with them.
I've since found many great deals on old twin lens reflex cameras, range finders and other bellows cameras. I've also been given other cameras, by friends who knew I was a collector. Now, I have a small collection of fun old machines, many of which I've shot images with. Pretty amazing how a simple gift like an old camera can cause a change in someone's interests.
Have you been given a special gift by someone that you use regularly, or might have changed something in your life? If so, I challenge you to ponder that gift and maybe even let the giver know how much you appreciate it.