Selfless gift shopping

Originally Appeared in : 9714-7/6/17

It took only three minutes of standing behind Magan at the resort check-in desk before I knew we had to find everyone some distraction, and fast. 


Only 19 hours earlier, a discreetly-placed set of mouse ears in my birthday card had given away the surprise of a trip to Disney World--six of those hours on the road and maybe (I mean, maybe) five more tied up in anyone actually sleeping.

Instead of being hunched over with exhaustion from such a whirlwind, as one might expect, our kids were hanging over the ropes like Dusty Rhodes (RIP) beckoning Ric Flair to come back into the ring. So off we went to see what selections were available in the dining hall just through the gift shop, with my hope that Magan wouldn’t be too much longer before our wild bunch realized they had me outnumbered and forced an impromptu coup.



I only lost one child, albeit briefly, on the trip through the gift shop as Jesse drifted toward the glitter of gift shop goodies, but I was able to rein him in with a “Jesse? Let’s go.”


A few minutes more of checking in, and finally Magan had rejoined us in the hall for lunch.


The mouse has become exceedingly good at his job, making the only way into or or out of the dining hall requiring a trip through the gift shop. With that in mind, we figured we’d go ahead and entertain everyone after lunch with a perusal of the shop to start gleaning ideas for vacation/Christmas/birthday gifts that Magan could comparison-shop online that evening.


As the stroller turned the corner, Eli lit up with excitement and was ready to break out his wallet and drop $12.99 (plus tax) at the sales counter.


“Daddy, look?!” he said with joy. “I want to get it.”


Without hesitation, I grabbed the item and we marched straight to the counter without a single “Are you sure this is what you want?” from myself.


The young woman at the counter thought it was cute that Eli was showing so much excitement over his purchase, and the two tried to dialogue about it even with the toddler-Cantonese language barriers that existed between the two. Smiles and head nods ended up saying more, however, and she handed the package back to Eli who was grinning from ear to ear as we searched for Magan.


“See mommy?!” he said. “Look what I got!”


I know what you’re thinking, it had to be one of those light up swords, or spinny-round thingys. Or maybe even one of those plush mouse toys or action figures that are all the rage these days.


But it wasn’t. It was a coffee cup. It was a teal coffee cup with Ariel on one side and “Once I wake up, I’ll be part of that world” on the other side.


You see, Eli had bought the mug for his mommy.


“I got it for you, mommy. See? Just like I promised.”


More than six months earlier, his flailing arms at the kitchen table had sent Magan’s cup shattering against the tile floor and since that time, Eli had made one solemn vow to Magan: “The next time we go to Disney World, mommy, I’m gonna buy you a new mermaid cup. I am.”


True to his word, Eli had bought his mommy a new mermaid mug and spent the rest of the evening reminding everyone in our party that he had done just that.


Instead of shooting Zurg while riding Buzz Lightyear, or driving on the Tomorrowland Speedway with AnnaMarie and myself, the highlight of Eli’s trip was righting an accidental wrong and putting a smile on his mommy’s face.


Little 3-year-old Eli had reminded Magan and me of a lesson taught by Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor” (10:24). He also held tight to Christ’s call that our “Yes mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No” (MT 5:33-37) when it comes to making vows, even vows to replace broken mermaid coffee mugs.


Eli may not ever be able to honor a vow to never break anything again, but at least his heart is already in the right place to repair any damage his overexcited arms and legs may cause in the future. And hopefully next time, it won’t take a very expensive vacation to get him close enough to honor his word.


Jason Halcombe has five sons and a daughter. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.

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