Friday, August 01, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: A boyfriend’s mistake: You got me what for Valentine’s Day?

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 2/14/2014

Neither Meghan Beeby nor the boyfriend she’d just moved in with took Valentine’s Day terribly seriously. But when all of the women in her office got flowers and she didn’t, she was disappointed. As Meghan wrote in her story “Toilet Paper for Valentine’s Day,” published in one of our books on family matters, the odd way her boyfriend redeemed himself turned out to be a sign of good things to come.

Meghan went home for lunch on Valentine’s Day looking dejected. Her boyfriend noticed immediately and, when he learned what was wrong, he ran off to get the present he’d been planning on giving her that evening. To Meghan’s bewilderment, he returned with an armload of house supplies. The gifts he was bearing included a shower curtain and a large package of extra-soft toilet paper. Meghan was shocked at first — who wouldn’t be? But then she realized the meaning of what she was seeing. “Here in front of me,” she wrote, “was the first person to actually listen and respond to my every little gripe.”

Neither Meghan Beeby nor the boyfriend she’d just moved in with took Valentine’s Day terribly seriously. But when all of the women in her office got flowers and she didn’t, she was disappointed. As Meghan wrote in her story “Toilet Paper for Valentine’s Day,” published in one of our books on family matters, the odd way her boyfriend redeemed himself turned out to be a sign of good things to come.

Meghan went home for lunch on Valentine’s Day looking dejected. Her boyfriend noticed immediately and, when he learned what was wrong, he ran off to get the present he’d been planning on giving her that evening. To Meghan’s bewilderment, he returned with an armload of house supplies. The gifts he was bearing included a shower curtain and a large package of extra-soft toilet paper. Meghan was shocked at first — who wouldn’t be? But then she realized the meaning of what she was seeing. “Here in front of me,” she wrote, “was the first person to actually listen and respond to my every little gripe.”

In a previous relationship, Meghan had grown accustomed to having her needs ignored. Now she saw the evidence that her new boyfriend had been taking note when she commented on the moldy shower curtain that deserved a biohazard tag or the toilet paper that could have doubled as sandpaper. It was an unconventional Valentine’s Day gift, to be sure, but just the one she needed.

Meghan and her boyfriend married later that year. Now Meghan reports that after almost a decade of marriage she’s only received one bouquet of flowers from her husband. But, at the same time, none of her concerns, household or otherwise, have gone unattended.

A gift for Valentine’s Day, or any other event, is nothing if not personal. And while sometimes a dozen red roses and a box of chocolates are just what a girl or guy wants, it’s the unconventional presents that can show us that our significant other is really listening. And isn’t that the best gift of all?

•••

As parents, we want our children to be grateful for all the blessings in their lives. We tell them they are lucky, that other kids are not so fortunate, but we fear they aren’t listening.

In her story “Adolescent Awakening,” published in our book about the ways our mothers have helped and supported us, Tasha Mitchell describes her mother’s smart strategy for getting the message across. As a girl, Tasha had volunteered with her mother at a nursing home. But as a preteen, she wasn’t interested. “I was too caught up in my adolescent world to worry about helping others,” she wrote.

Tasha’s mother wasn’t happy about this. One summer day, she told Tasha to get dressed and meet her at the car. Tasha was upset. She’d planned to spend the day with her friends. So she got into the car and sat in silence. Eventually her mother asked, “Would you like to know where we are going?” The answer was a children’s shelter where Tasha’s mother had been volunteering recently.

At the doorway Tasha’s mother rang the doorbell, and Tasha’s hands began to sweat. “I wasn’t sure if it was the summer heat or the anticipation of what I was about to encounter,” she wrote. A woman opened the heavy door and beckoned them inside, where Tasha found a number of children playing. There didn’t seem to be any parents around. She noticed bruises and scratches on a few of the kids. Then a small girl tugged on her shirt and asked if she wanted to play with dolls together.

Over the course of the summer, Tasha returned to the shelter several times, and some of the children shared stories with her about their troubled backgrounds. The visits had a profound effect on her — just the effect her mother had intended. “I learned to be grateful for what I had,” Tasha wrote.

Perhaps the number one rule of writing is show, don’t tell — something we do with our Chicken Soup for the Soul stories. I guess the rule applies to life also, and Tasha’s mother seemed to know that.

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

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