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ReCycler
12-08-2012, 10:47 AM
Very often we focus on what we received, what we did, what decorations we put up, what we bought, and what we cooked. Very little do we think about what we gave, or did, for others. I want to hear about the best gift you gave someone else, not necessarily the fanciest or the most expensive, but the most thoughtful gift. It can be anything, whether bought, recycled, or made from scratch. It seems I can't go a year now without remembering this, it is my favourite Christmas memory, for more than one reason.

The best gift I ever gave/made for someone else comes from when I was fifteen. I was working at a church doing office work and handy/mechanic things when required. Every year in November, a Christmas tree is put up in the community hall. This tree is populated with small cards over November and December, each detailing a less fortunate child's or family's needs and wants over the coming year. Most are practical: warm clothes, blankets, transit passes, and gift certificates for grocery and drug stores were common requests. Gifts are anonymous, so names aren't usually put on the cards. One day I happened to notice a card with some familiar writing on it, a little boy who I liked. He was always nice and helped out when he could. He wanted a new bike, after his met an unfortunate end in the previous autumn under a semi-trailer truck. His helmet cracked when he threw himself off of his bike, landing hard on the sidewalk. To this day, I'm not sure how exactly he managed to walk away. I thought surely no one would deny him a new bike and helmet. His card sat on the tree for two weeks, while cards detailing wishes for video games, computers, TVs, and the like were snapped right up. The minister told me that such requests were often ignored because there wasn't enough information about the recipient to give a suitable gift. I picked up my pen with sparkly gold ink (don't ask, but it's dead useful sometimes) and outlined the information that I would need to build him a new bike (lengths of both arms and legs, inseams, overall height, shoe size, hand length and width, circumference of the head at the widest, height of head from left and right, and the distance between the eyebrows and the top of the head), that with colour, shifter type (except twist-shifters, I hate them with a passion), and intended use. Yes, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I wasn't expecting a reply, I just wanted to show him that not even Santa could possibly know everything. To my surprise, the minister handed me a note back from the boy the next day, with all of the information that I had requested from him (the youth pastor helped him with the measurements). I figured that I was duly committed, and spent all of my spare time sourcing, cleaning, repairing, stripping, painting, and assembling various older parts into a new working hybrid bike. The helmet proved more troublesome, I had to order a new one online since no one in the stores seemed to know what to do with the measurements I gave them. I put several litres of blood, sweat, tears, and love into that bike, and it showed. I still have a scar on the side of my index finger where my wrench slipped and . . . ow.

When the distribution day came around, I wheeled the bike in behind Santa. Beside the wrapped-up gifts, it's shiny redness with yellow, blue, and white flames under several thin clear coats stuck right out. I quickly locked the bike to a nearby immobile table to stop it from floating away in the commotion. Everyone in the building stopped the look at the bike, respectfully staying behind the ropes but making the helper elves nervous all the same. I handed the key over to Santa so he could give it to the child. When the boy's name was called, he nervously walked over to Santa, who gave him the key. He looked at the key curiously, then thanked Santa and confidently walked over to his new bike. After some fiddling, he got the key in the lock and freed the metal monster. He coiled the plastic-coated braided steel cable carefully around the U-lock and snapped the end of the lock into it's bracket. He turned his attention to the smaller box hanging from a ribbon tied to the handlebar. He carefully broke the tape holding the paper to the end of the box, and extracted his new helmet. This was too much for the little guy, he fell to his knees and started crying. I walked over to him, knelt beside him, and ran my fingers up and down his back until he calmed down. He walked his bike over to Santa and thanked him again, then I took him and his new bike for a much-needed lie-down.

That is the only time I have had the recipient of anything that I have bought, made, or done completely break down. It is also the only time I have had to tell the recipient's parents that he really was all right and there was no need for an ambulance. A doctor in the crowd did look him over and pronounced him well but very tired and quite overstimulated. The next day I helped him with the remaining adjustments and we went for a ride on the dyke to get the grease moving in the bearings. I have taken it back a couple times over the years to fix small wear-and-tear problems; when I build something I do it to last. A younger cousin of his now has the bike, and hopefully he can pass it down when the time comes.

So, tell me your stories. I like recycling and green gifting, especially mechanical contraptions and electronics that I've built or fixed myself. I have a full-service shop with a finishing room and a large kiln for enamel paints. I look forward to reading everyone's stories.