Vol. 15, No. 1 November 2010
"The Greatest Gift I Ever Gave"
In the last issue we asked young people in foster care what the best gift they ever gave was, and what made it such a good gift. Here’s what they had to say.
—John McMahon, Editor
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by Felicia, age 15
The best gift that I ever gave anyone would have to be to my new mom. I gave her my heart in love and all she really wanted from me was good behavior.
I showed her good behavior by being kind and respectful and by following the rules. I am not perfect—sometimes I make mistakes—but from my heart, I really want to do what is right.
I am thankful for Ms. Anitta, my foster mom, for helping me through giving me a warm, loving, nurturing home. I appreciate her guidance and encouraging me to go for my dreams. It really makes a difference in one’s life when you know that someone is rooting for you. I would also like to give a big shout out to the other two ladies in my life, Ms. Maria and Ms. Priscilla, who are other foster moms in my life.
I am blessed: I have at least three people who care about me. It feels so good to love and to be loved. Felicia received $100 for winning first prize.!
Felicia ’s essay won first prize, for which she was awarded $100.
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by Bianca, age 16
I had a little foster sister and I taught her how to ride her bike. This was the best gift because this is something that she will know how to do for a lifetime. When she is older she will teach her kids how to do this, and so on. It makes me feel good that I taught someone a lifetime skill and it makes me feel good when I see her riding her bike up and down the road cause I can say “I did that, I taught her how to ride a bike.” Maybe, just maybe, when she’s older and teaching her kids or anyone else to ride a bike she will remember that I taught her! Bianca received $50 for winning second prize..
Bianca’s essay won second prize, for which she was awarded $50.
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Donisha, age 16
The best gift I ever gave someone was friendship. Bradford was a tall, light-skinned fellow with big ears, a big nose, braces, and a monkey face. . . . In my eyes he was the perfect dork . . . . I was so popular I felt untouchable—I thought I was all that and a bag of chips. Then one day my pre-algebra teacher made us do partner work. . . . From that very moment we became the greatest of friends.
We came from two different worlds. His parents were middle class and he had very fine belongings. I grew up with little I could call my own. He was subtle, timid, and kind of quiet; he only spoke when spoken to, but smiled a lot. I was just the opposite—loud, outgoing, and hardly ever shy. But once I started talking to Brad, I found out what a sweet and funny guy he was. . . .
Brad and I became inseparable. We would always pick each other for partner work, sit by each other, and walk with each other. Brad even sat at the girls’ table at lunch just so he could talk to me. We were truly best friends. . . .
Because of getting to know Brad, I will never assume anything about another person. . . . Because of me, I believe Brad became a better, less timid person. I know he sure changed me. . . . Friendship is the greatest gift you can ever give someone—it leaves one with such great memories and fun times.
Donisha’s essay won third prize, for which she was awarded $25.
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The Greatest Gift I've Given
The young people below each received $15 for having their letters published.
The best gift I ever gave someone was love, because it’s unconditional and unspeakable and people are really happy when you give and show them love. They respect you more, because loves shows respect, peacefulness, and happiness.
—Talik, age 12
I gave my dad a drawing . . . he likes to put it on his wall so he can look at it and be proud of me. . . . It was a good gift because I put effort into drawing it.
—Zachary, age 9
When I gave Kate my friendship, she gave me hers in return. It was the best gift because we need each other. . . . We have SO much fun together!
—Jayna, age 12
On Mother’s Day I gave my step-mom (who is really my foster mom), Mrs. Inez, three beautiful pairs of earrings and a gorgeous silver bracelet. . . . As she opened the box, I noticed this huge smile on her face and a bright sparkle in her eyes. They looked like diamonds in the moonlit sky. I could clearly see and tell that she really loved the gifts. She gave me a huge hug, thanked me, and said she would always treasure this gift. . . . I am so thankful to have Mrs. Inez and her family in my life.
—Heather, age 14
When I was still with my mother. . . . I failed the 1st grade because I couldn’t read.
So in my second year of first grade I was really not that good, in the beginning. At school we had an award ceremony. . . .I was as nervous as can be, but I should not have worried, because I got best improved!
. . . . I looked at my mom, who was in the back. She was crying and holding my grandma’s hand. She was so happy because it meant she was a good mom and was doing something right. I didn’t understand it then, but the best gift you can give somebody is love and happiness. This all happened about 4 weeks before my mom died of diabetes.
. . . . The one thing that keeps me going is the fact that at one time somebody loved me very much and I gave them the best present life can give.
The best gift I’ve given someone would have to be me....[because] God gave me a package of great abilities, such as making people smile, helping other people, and being a good friend to someone.
—Anthony, age 15
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By Kodi, age 17
We catch so many things in our life
Like bugs, and balls, bad colds
Someone special’s attention
We even sometimes “Catch a Hint”
But my favorite thing to catch is memories
I’ll catch them in the net of my heart and mind
Put them in a jar
On my windowsill at night
And call them fireflies
So let’s run for tonight
Like children pursuing butterflies
We’ll forget about who we are
And not overthink who we might become
We’ll spend the night, our money, our time together
Caught up in a hug, a kiss
A smile, a lie
Then we’ll dance
You’ll make me laugh
I’ll make you smile
You’ll catch my eye
I’ll catch your heart
You’ll hold my hand
And we’ll swear never to tell
We’ll wake up in the morning
With our identities in our hands
A tingle on our skin
And an image in our heads we can’t seem to shake
Maybe one day we’ll call it our past or a mistake
Or just another crazy night
’Cause we’re young and we can
But for now
Let’s take a walk outside
Put our love in a jar
On the windowsill at night
And call them memories.
Kodi received $15 for having her poem published.
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My shell is not like this
My eyes follow with delight
The shape of my life today
Starts with my family
I ran away and left my shell
Did not like my life
But now my family is here
Back in my life
Now it’s back
I can be me
And be with my family
Aliyah received $15 for having her poem published.
Copyright � 2010 Jordan Institute for Families
(May 30, 2006)
Life is full of unexpected surprises. There are many opportunities when one can secretly wish for something exciting to happen – something out of the ordinary. The real surprise is when the wish unexpectedly comes true. I never believed that something like this could ever happen to me; such a thing that would make me stop and look back at the events in awe. I think you would agree that something as simple as being lost in the forest for less than ten minutes should have no influence on my life. If you do agree, that makes both of us wrong.
Throughout my childhood, I loved the wild. My family and I would always go for a walk in the downtown forest of Coote’s Paradise. There were many times I thought of what could happen if we were to lose our way from the trail and have to live off of the land until we found our way back to civilization. I thought it would be the greatest experience ever.
As my brothers and I grew older, we continued to go for these walks with our parents but the dreams of living in the forest I soon forgot. That’s when it happened. We decided to take a different path off the main trail. Before I knew it, the path had disappeared and no one in my family could tell where we had come from. It was so unexpected. It gave me a feeling of excitement that can’t be described. Everything in the forest seemed different. The trees were a deeper shade of green. The birds chirped in a different tone. Vines covered almost every inch of the ground. One part of me never wanted this moment to end. I felt completely free from the stress of my life outside of the woods. It was this moment that I realized that I would much rather stay here for the rest of my life than go back to society.
I think that another reason that I felt carefree was because my parents didn’t panic. They took the situation under control and headed for any open area in hopes to find a map (many of these maps were found throughout the grounds, telling you where you were). From my point of view, at the time, it seemed as if they were excited as I was about losing our way. In the end, it only took my parents ten minutes to find such a map and we were back on the trail in no time.
An experience like this made me think about my place in life. I’m the type who loves seeking out adventures. When we were lost, I realized that I had everything I would ever need with me – my family. They’ve always supported me in everything I do. This experience made me realize that families need to stick together; you don’t realize how much you need them until, for a moment, you think they’ll be the last people you see for the rest of your life.
It’s incredible how much a simple thing like being lost in a forest for ten minutes will affect your outlook on life. Things like not being able to find your way back to where you came from make you appreciate the little things in life. Looking back on the day, I realize now that it was fate. Moments like that are few and far between and should be taken as a lesson. Surprises like this were, and always will be, an unexpected gift for all.