I’m not exactly sure why I gave the necklace to Kayla.
I had an extra necklace. Kayla was sitting in front of me at church. It just seemed like the thing to do.
Now, keep in mind that I’m talking about a candy necklace here — nothing special. It was just a stringy circle of elastic with multicolored candies strung around it. I had given a bunch of them to the 10-year-olds to whom I was teaching Old Testament stories that year (What? You don’t see the connection between candy necklaces and the Old Testament?) and I had an extra one — well, actually, I had an extra three, but my two youngest children, Jon and Elizabeth, were already wearing two of them around their respective necks, with candy fragments already glistening on their respective lips.
Kayla, on the other hand, was special. She had long dark hair. Gorgeous eyes. A beautiful smile. The sweetest voice you’ve ever heard. And she was 6. In all the world, there is nothing so wonderfully adorable as a 6-year-old girl.
Which is probably why I gave the last necklace to her. I’m a sucker for that stuff.
When I slipped the necklace into her hand, she smiled that beautiful smile of hers, and I considered myself adequately thanked. Then I settled back to enjoy the church meeting.
As enthralling as church probably was that day (although it clearly wasn’t so enthralling that I actually remember anything else about it), I did notice a couple of things about Kayla. For one thing, although she wore the candy necklace around her neck, I didn’t see her actually eating the candy. By way of comparison, Jon had his necklace fully consumed and was asking for more before we sang the final “Alleluia” in the opening hymn.
The other thing I noticed was that she seemed quite intent on something she was drawing. I couldn’t see it, but whatever it was, it certainly had her attention — so much so that she paid almost no attention to the candy strung around her neck.
When the service ended, I stood to leave. Then I noticed something small and cute in the aisle beside me. It was Kayla.
She didn’t say a word. She just handed a piece of paper to me. It was the picture that she had been working on throughout the meeting. It showed a tall stick-figure man, with glasses and most of his hair, holding a candy necklace in his hand. Next to him was a shorter stick-figure girl with long dark hair, gorgeous eyes and a beautiful smile. Over her head was a cartoon balloon with these words: “Thank you!”
It was a lovely gift and a fine work of art — far more valuable than the candy bauble I had presented to her. As I thanked her for her gift, I noticed she was finally starting to eat the candy I had given to her.
“It looks like your daddy wouldn’t let you eat your candy until after church,” I observed.
She shook her head seriously.
“I could eat it,” she said shyly. “I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ first.”
I was touched by her gesture and inspired by her message. It was so important to her to say “thank you” that she couldn’t really enjoy the treat until she had expressed her gratitude. No wonder I can’t remember what was spoken over the pulpit that day; I heard one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard in the words and actions of a little girl.
That’s why there was immediately a new piece of art in the gallery that fills the nooks and crannies of my office. Kayla’s picture was the first to be enshrined there that wasn’t created by one of my offspring. I included it as a way of remembering to always be grateful.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com.