The story has appeared in Guideposts Magazine, and various versions have been printed in other publications. The first time I heard it, I was a relatively new member in the Junior League of Tyler, learning about voluntarism and giving back to the community. Deanna Sims was president of the league and she told the story with emotion, weaving it into the mission of our organization. The tale has stayed with me. I have retold it countless times to my family, my friends and other groups, but the message bears repeating.
A missionary teacher in Africa received a seashell of lustrous beauty from one of her students. Accepting the gift, she knelt beside the boy and asked him, “Where ever did you find such a beautiful shell?” The youth told her there was only one place where such extraordinary shells could be found. When he named the place, a certain bay several miles away, the teacher was overwhelmed. She knew it would have taken the young boy hours to walk to the bay and hours to return, facing treacherous twists and turns along the journey. Awed that he would go all that way for her, the teacher exclaimed, “Why, it’s gorgeous, exquisite! You’ve traveled so far to bring me such a wonderful present.”
The boy’s eyes brightened as he replied, “Long walk part of gift.”
No doubt each of us has given and received this type of gift, the value of which cannot be measured. That’s what makes the gift especially meaningful. Maybe you’ve prepared a labor-intensive recipe for a celebratory meal honoring someone you hold dear. Perhaps you’ve received a greeting card that seems to have been crafted specifically for you and thought someone searched and found this card just for you. My sister once stood in line for hours to have a football autographed for our son. Knowing his aunt went to such great lengths, he cherishes the prized possession even more.
There have been many long walks in our community, and the journeys have benefited agencies and donors alike. Starting a nonprofit corporation requires not only vision, but also an enormous amount of commitment, planning and passion. Sustaining the service takes even more. It’s a long walk from a need recognized to a need met.
The significance of a contribution often comes from a donor’s personal trek and the experiences along the way - all of which lead to why the gift is given and how it matters most. The walk is the very heart of the gift.
So how far are we willing to go? Above and beyond? The extra mile? Thank goodness finding the perfect shell still takes a long walk.
Kristen Seeber serves as president of the Women’s Fund of Smith County. This collective giving circle seeks to leverage the philanthropic capacity of women as a catalyst for positive change. To learn more about its mission and membership opportunities, visit www.womensfundsc.org.