As the old saying goes, the best things in life are free. Allow me to share the last moment I was struck with this truth. I raised my eyes from my work at the computer as I remembered I was supposed to be keeping an eye on McKay and Hattie, two of my first grader “Grands.” Muted by the large picture window, I could still hear them giggling and calling out to each other. Ah…the simple life of a six-year-old! I peered through the glass that separated me from the carefree cousins. I could not see them, but I could see the results of their creative work. Framed in the afternoon sunlight, sitting on the backyard patio, was a box, along with seven brown paper lunch sacks stuffed with something. Hmmm… What are they up to? Time to find out!
I stepped out the back door, peeked inside the mysterious paper bags, and then scanned the park for the children. The two pals were having a perfectly joyful time filling my paper lunch sacks with fall leaves and pinecones. But to what end? The solving of that mystery came as I read the handmade sign that had been carefully glued to the front of the box.
The sign read:
Leves 4 Saile
1 $ per Bag
from Hattie and Mckay
The box, surrounded by bags stuffed with leaves, was sitting so that all passers by could see it plainly from the park. McKay and Hattie had gone outside to play and happened upon a very real treasure, so they decided to capitalize on it. They had set to work collecting beautiful leaves and pinecones in a park full of leaves and pinecones and then put them up for sale, clearly believing that surely someone would buy. Who could resist?
There was quite a “six-year-old” type uproar as the moms, who needed to move on with their day, arrived and announced that it was time to “clean up” and come in the house. “But no one bought our leaves,” they cried (literally)!
Feeling tender toward the young entrepreneurs, we each dug into our wallets, gathered several dollars, and purchased the bags of “nature.” The children could not have been more thrilled. I was a bit chagrined to realize I had not previously taken enough notice of the leaves to bring some in the house myself. It took two six-year-olds to bag them up and advertise them for sale before I notice what was beautiful, just outside my backdoor, and free.
As I moved on to the next part of my day I was reminded of the lyrics of the lovely song from the musical Oliver, “Who will buy this wonderful morning…who will tie it up with a ribbon, and put it in a box for me”
I also thought of the words the Lord spoke centuries ago through the prophet Isaiah, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). These words are a divine announcement that what we need to buy in this life, the things that will actually quench our thirst and fill our hunger for more and more and more, are free.
So, how do we “buy” what God gives to us for free? How do we buy a park carpeted with fall leaves, a sky twinkling with stars, the pinks and oranges and fiery reds of a sunset, the first snow of winter? We “come,” just as Isaiah instructed. We notice. We appreciate. That is what God requires. The exquisite things of this earth are not for sale, and they cannot be boxed, or bagged, or bottled for the future.
Even for a diehard Thanksgiving lover like myself, over the next few days orange and brown will be put away and Christmas red and green will be in style. The fall wreath will necessarily come off the door, and I will box up my simple fall decor. Once again it will be that time of year that is filled to the brim with stuff. And even though it may be “black Friday” or “cyber Monday” or “last chance Tuesday,” that stuff will cost money. But this year, though Christmas purchases will be part of my celebration, I want to buy all I can buy “without money and without price.” It is by far the free sounds, and sights, and stories, and gatherings, and loved ones, and most of all the love of our Savior that make this the most wonderful time of the year. I want to see what God and all the lovely people around me are so generously trying to gift me for free.
The children do not hang on to fall. They have all moved on. They know that God has moved on. He is decorating for Christmas! As of yet they have not bagged the snow that fell in the park this week and put it up for sale. But as I looked at three of them kneeling on the bench, and gazing out my picture window on the morning of the first snowfall, I knew I was looking at children who know how to buy without money and without price! The most wonderful things of the “most wonderful time of the year” or of any time of year, don’t cost a dime. The best things in life are free!