When I was in 5th grade my teacher had us all participate in a "white elephant" type gift exchange. We all drew names: girls chose girls, boys chose boys. With 30+ kids in the class there was a very low likelihood that two people would give gifts to each other, however in this case it did happen. Adam and Billy drew each other's names.
Adam and Billy were very different. Adam's father owned his own business and did very well. His mother stayed home with their children and volunteered in our classroom regularly. Adam had an extensive collection of Micro Machines and always had new, trendy clothes. Adam was out-going, a good student, well-liked and could pick his friends. Billy was none of those things.
Billy was near the end of a family of boys. His single mother worked long hours and was rarely home. His brothers were often in trouble. The house he lived in was very run-down. Billy's clothes were probably not new when his brothers wore them, and they were not always clean. He was an introvert and somewhat outcast, but Billy was always kind to everyone. He did his best in school, but he wasn't "smart" and he didn't get into trouble.
I'm sure Billy didn't bother asking his mother for money to buy Adam a gift. He just picked out the best toy he had that he thought Adam might like and wrapped it in newspaper. When he brought it to school and placed it on the gift table it was obvious to the rest of us what it was--an old tennis ball missing it's fuzz and color.
Adam came in and placed his gift with the rest. It was the biggest thing on the table--a big box wrapped in bright blue paper with a nice bow. I could see Billy gazing at it and wondering what wonderful thing it contained. He didn't know it was for him.
Our teacher began having us unwrap gifts in an orderly fashion. She had Billy give his gift to Adam, and before he could open it, Adam gave his gift to Billy. Billy's eyes lit up at the sheer size of the box placed in front of him. I'm sure he had never been given a box that big with a gift for him in it. He carefully opened the box and pulled out a brand-new Nerf football ready to be thrown. Billy could hardly believe this was actually for him: he was almost speechless. I am sure he felt his gift inferior, especially since he had just given it to someone who obviously didn't need it. Quietly, Adam slipped the newspaper off the tennis ball and thanked Billy for the gift. Billy thanked him for the football. I knew Adam didn't care about the tennis ball. He got a better gift from Billy--the true joy of giving.
I have thought about that day often over the last 20+ years and each time I am moved to tears. To me it embodies the true spirit of giving on behalf of both Billy and Adam.