I’ve always loved the idea of handheld gifts. Not handheld electronics, but those simple treasures that fit in your palm. There’s something special about the word, handheld, that offers a sense of support. Is that why we hold our own hands in prayer, as a connection with God as we give thanks or share our worries? On several occasions I’ve given the present of worry angels. These little glass sculptures can be held when praying for people or events that weigh heavy on the mind. There are also worry stones that do the same, and I think it’s the earthly feel of the stone that aids in the humanity of our pain, no matter the depth of our inner turmoil and spiritual request in prayer. Rosary beads have this effect, too. Without consciously choosing to start such a collection, I have my mom’s beads and the beads held by my mother- and father-in-law before their final resting; I have the rosaries of both my grandmothers, women I never knew, and I find it an honor to touch each smooth bead when I say the rosary. Love and peace join the feelings of support and connection when I pray.
Not religious in its appearance, charms and coins are handheld gifts that also bring this personal touch. One particular morning, I arrived at a coffee shop and was getting my writing material together when I noticed three women at a table playing with clay. When I approached, they asked me to sit with them. I’m so grateful that I joined. I’m no artist, but clay is a perfect stress releaser. We laughed and talked while pressing round balls into flat pancakes and then molding them into whatever we desired. I learned that Jessica was my age; she was planning a long trip to New Orleans. I can’t explain why I connected with her, but when she talked, she reminded me of myself, or maybe it was the self I hadn’t yet become. She was a dreamer, an optimist. I was wearing an Emily Dickinson charm around my neck, and it felt right to unfasten the chain and tell my new friend to hold out her hand. The quote: “That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.” Jessica was the epitome of that line. She appreciated life, and for that, I appreciated her, and if we never met again, I wanted her to be reminded of her ability to touch another human being. If you’re reading this, Jessica, I hope New Orleans is treating you well, that your adventures are abundant, and that you know you are a blessing!
When writing LINES--, I wanted a character to give something of himself to another character. I didn’t know what that would be; all I knew was that it had to be handheld. At around the same time as writing this scene, a musician friend (thanks, Rob Pierce) gave me his CD called Flat Rock. Huh. Could it get any clearer? That was it. The "story" rock came from the debris of the Great Fire, and the character kept it to remind him not of destruction and loss, but of hope.
There are no little treasures like these under the tree this year. My teenage sons are getting the video game stuff and college sports apparel. But I’m okay with that because I also plan on holding their hands and telling them I love them. Yeah, that will be awkward for them, but someday they’ll appreciate that gift more than PS4 controllers.