“An Unexpected Gift,” Feb. 22, 2022

The birthday card made me laugh. A man and a woman of a certain age (old) are talking. The woman asks, “Wearing that new hot hearing aid?”

“Yeah,” says the man, “it set me back $4,000!”

“Really? What kind is it?”

And the guy replies, “2:30.”

You might say, for people of a certain age, hearing aids would be nothing to joke about. But to borrow a bit of wisdom from Jimmy Buffett, “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

I liked the card for its humor, but I loved it because of the person who sent it to me. Let’s call her Emily. That’s not her real name, but it’s a good name for a good soul.

It’s been decades since Emily came to live with me, my first husband and our three young children. She was not the only teenager who took shelter in our home over the years. There were a half dozen or so others who stayed with us at various times, from a few weeks to a year, sleeping in our spare room, eating my cooking and suffering all the insanities our kids dished out.

Some of those teenagers were easier to live with than others. A few were nearly impossible. But they were all good kids who, for whatever reasons, needed a safe place to stay for a while. They enriched our lives and taught us more than we ever hoped to teach them.

Especially Emily. Life had not been kind to her. At times, it was unspeakably cruel. But in the fourteen turbulent years of her life, she had learned how to survive, how to make the best of bad times and most of all, how to laugh.

I wish you could’ve heard her.

That girl could out-bray a mule. If I ever get hearing aids, I plan to send her the bill. And now that I have her address, I’ll know where to send it.

At the end of Emily’s year with us, she went back to the family and the life she grew up in. For a while, things seemed to go well. When she was in a good place, I’d get a note or a long-distance phone call. When she was in a bad place, I didn’t hear much from her. I rarely knew how to get in touch with her. But she always knew how to reach me.

In recent years, I hadn’t heard a word from Emily. I’d almost given up hope of ever hearing from her again. But two months ago, I got a Christmas card from her, saying that she was well and sending us her love.

It included a return address. So I wrote back with a brief update on our lives. She knew that my first husband died years ago and that I had remarried. So I filled her in on our growing family, complete with photos of our nine grandchildren. When I mailed it, I prayed it wasn’t too much. I didn’t want to overwhelm her and risk never hearing from her again.

Then last week, she sent me that wonderful birthday card with a few more details of her life and how well she is doing. She especially seemed to like the photos of the grandkids. But my favorite line she wrote was this: “I now know how much God loves me, and it has finally brought me to love myself.”

Sometimes a birthday card can be a priceless gift.

If I could have given Emily anything when she was with us, I’d have gladly given her what she described in that card—the thing she needed most of all—a clear sense of how much she is loved by God, and in turn, a genuine love for herself.

But love is a gift. It can’t be received until it’s accepted. We don’t need hearing aids to hear it. We just need to be willing to risk everything, open our arms and our hearts and let it in.

Love speaks in a whisper, never a shout, sometimes with words, always with grace. It comes on the wind, in the sound of a baby’s breath, in a look in the eyes of one who cares or in the touch of a healing hand. It finds a home within our soul and sings a song that all is well.

Listen. Do you hear it?


  1. Michael T. Klafter says

    Happy Birthday Sharon!
    Long time listener, first time caller. Maybe it should be long time reader first time commentator.
    Your column was often the first newspaper article that I read with my breakfast coffee on Tuesdays, though nowadays I read it now on the internet.
    I just love your sense of humor and life perspective.
    Have a blessed day!!

  2. Jo Anne Roberts says

    Heartwarming story. So glad she is happier now. And very glad she let you know about how she was.

  3. Gail Tancreto says

    What a beautiful story. It’s what we all need to learn and I’m glad that Emily knows that now.

  4. Such a beautiful message to share with your readers…thank you.

  5. Three old fellows were walking down the beach. One says, “It sure is windy today!”. Another says, “No! It’s Thursday!”. The third answers, “Me too! Let’s go get a beer.”.

  6. Sydney S Love says

    She is a wise young lady. God loves us no matter what. It isn’t a free ride to do what ever we want but it sure is comforting to know that someone loves us no matter what.
    How unselfish that you and your family provided a home for the young people that needed one. I’m sure you will have your jewels in heaven. Thank you for sharing that part of your life. You are a special lady and those kids were blessed to have you.

  7. Kate Sciacca says

    Absolutely I hear it. The love you have for us, your readers, every time you make the effort to share another story with us.

    Snowing here in the real Nevada…God knows we need it 😊

  8. Beautiful! God is love and you shared it with this young lady! Precious!

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