One of my daughters lost her winter coat recently. I can hardly write that without squeezing my eyes shut and sighing a little bit on this 10 degree morning. I don’t want to buy her a new one so the other night, when it was 17 degrees, we both looked through the closet and found a coat I had bought at Old Navy during one of their big clearance sales. I think I paid $19.48 for it or whatever strange number they used for their markdowns that day. It isn’t as warm as her old coat, but it is better than nothing and with some gloves and a hat, she will survive the winter cold. It had been awhile since I had worn that coat so I called her over and said, “Wonder if I have anything in these pockets.” I reached in and pulled out a little bag, the kind you use to pick up poop when you walk your dog. Guess my dog didn’t do his business the last time I wore the coat. Then I reached into the other pocket and immediately felt what I recognized as money. I smiled to think that I would find one or two dollars, but couldn’t believe it when I pulled out $65! I think I giggled, did a little “I found some money” dance and quickly texted Steve about my “winnings” as if we had just won the lottery.
I transferred the money to my newer coat pocket and have been slow to spend any of this unexpected windfall. Ok, I have spent about half of it, but I just like having it in my pocket. I like thinking about unexpected surprises and finding things that I didn’t see before.
For months, that coat has just been an afterthought: “Should I donate this coat since it’s just taking up space in our closet?” It wasn’t my favorite coat, and I didn’t think it was really warm enough or cute enough to wear on a regular basis. I had no idea that inside the pockets was a treasure that was more valuable than the coat itself.
So what is my point? I have just been thinking about how often I fail to see the value and worth of a person, a situation, or a difficult day. I tend to see what I want to see and often make inaccurate or insensitive judgments that aren’t helpful, fair, or life giving. I have also wondered how many of us see ourselves like this old coat. We think that what we bring to the table lacks value, or creativity, or competency. Some days I live like all I have to offer is an empty dog poop bag, and I forget that maybe God created me for much more than that.
When I was in elementary school, I had the same art teacher from first grade through sixth grade. I liked art, but the teacher never had one nice thing to say about any of my artwork. In fact, she was quite gifted at criticizing my work. I have vivid memories of sitting on my art stool, being so aware of my teacher strolling around the room, offering feedback to all of us budding artists. She would usually rave about my best friend’s work, and I would eagerly listen, hoping that maybe she would like my work too. My heart would beat faster as I sensed her approach, but she would always just tell me why my creation wasn’t quite right. Don’t worry. This didn’t scar me or lead to therapy years later, but to this day, I have absolutely no confidence when it comes to drawing or painting or doing any other art-type requirement. I don’t think I ever showed enormous potential in the art realm, but what if my teacher had been looking for ways to encourage me instead?
I thought of this recently when someone I know shared that she struggled greatly with math in elementary school. Several teachers just threw up their hands and walked away, but one teacher saw something deeper and was willing to work with her until she was able to understand. The teacher helped her student uncover what had been hidden. Today, this person not only loves math, but teaches it as well and is one of my daughter’s favorite teachers. This makes me smile every time I see her. (Side note, in case you are wondering: I am NOT an art teacher!)
I want to have eyes to see what’s hidden. To look for the value and gift in everything, even when all I see is a coat that might get tossed onto the “donate” pile. You never know what treasure might be waiting to be found.