Have you seen the credit card commercials that ask, “What’s in your wallet?” Here’s another question: “What’s in your garage?”
I keep my garage uncluttered enough that a car can fit inside during the winter, but otherwise my wife Candy concedes the space to me for storing household tools, yard equipment, and a few keepsakes. Looking around the garage the other day, I was surprised to notice how many items I had acquired as gifts.
Those old pruning shears with long wooden handles? My father-in-law gave them to me when he retired. The extension ladder? My neighbor held a yard sale, and when I tried to buy the ladder he insisted on giving it to me instead. The hand-woven basket hanging on the wall? My grandpa made it himself and gave it to me when I was a boy.
On the garage wall hangs a ticket stub from the 2009 Indianapolis 500. (A generous friend wanted me to attend the race once in my life.) There’s another ticket stub from the Cincinnati Reds’ 2003 Opening Day baseball game—a gift from other long-time friends.
Hanging on a nail is a string of rusty metal bottle caps looped together like a necklace. On a mission trip to Ethiopia years ago, I noticed that our local hosts brewed coffee in a fire on the ground. Their coffee pots were round on the bottom, so to steady the pots, my Ethiopian friends collected soda bottle caps, cut holes in the middle of each one, and strung them into a loop about six inches in diameter. When laid on the ground, the string of bottle caps stabilized the wobbly coffee pots. When I expressed admiration for their creativity, my poor but generous hosts insisted I take one of their creations home with me. Most of my neighbors drive nicer cars than I do, but they don’t have a strand of Ethiopian bottle caps hanging in their garage!
I also keep several ball caps in my garage, including a dark blue military veteran ball cap with gold embroidery on the front that says, “USS Ronald Reagan—Peace Through Strength.” Clint Gill was one of my favorite Bible college professors. He had strong faith, a brilliant mind, and a forceful communication style that made him sound gruff and abrasive, but he loved the Lord deeply and devoted himself to serving his students. As years passed, Clint’s beloved wife Margie died and memory problems clouded his once-keen mind. The last time we saw Clint, Candy and I visited him in a home for retired veterans. We chatted while I pushed him around in his wheelchair. We told him how much we loved him and appreciated his teaching. Due to his memory problems, he repeatedly asked where I worked and how I was serving the Lord, and with a tear in my eye, I answered the same questions over and over again. Before we parted that day, he removed the blue ball cap from his head and gave it to me.
Along with the other treasures in my garage, Clint’s ball cap reminds me that the best gifts aren’t always the most expensive or impressive-looking. And it reminds me that the most important question isn’t, “What’s in your wallet?” but “What’s in your heart?”
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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