Typically, when you get a present it’s in celebration of some momentous event, something like the 25th of December and the pagan ritual-cum-Christian-holiday that has resulted. Typically, you’re handed a gift and you know exactly where it came from and exactly how much the person loves you based on the thought, time and salary percentage that went into the presentation and whatever it contains.
But sometimes you get something out of nowhere, and sometimes these things are even anonymous. And strangely, this, of all things in the world, seems more like a gift than the possible contract or bribe or expectation or reward that comes wrapped in silver paper bearing a name. The etiquette of gift-giving is always touchy; you can’t be stingy, but neither should you be so generous that the other feels guilty for not giving you as much back. You can give something secondhand if it’s an antique or otherwise a great find, but not if it came out of your closet.
The etiquette of gift-giving doesn’t seem to cover charity. And as much as “charity” is something of a dirty word, its roots are the opposite. “Charity” is often the translation of agape in the King James, an unconditional and baseless love presented without the possibility of requitement.
Sometimes an anonymous gift, one of those unexpected things you find when you open your mail, even with the flash of the maddening cultural implication that you just can’t cut it, is like this unconditional love.
It says: whoever I am, and I could be anyone, I think you are worth helping. I think you are worth loving. I think you are worth saving. And heck, I may be wrong. You may use this to buy ingredients for meth or something, and heck, I wouldn’t even know. I’m just going to trust you with this. With no other words to accompany the gift than encouragement, with no other sign than the block letters of the crowd.
In response, what does one do? Who does one thank? There is no one to claim recognition. So one turns outwards, one looks outwards, one looks for ways one may also be generous. Unconditionally. And even secretly. For one knows, now that this has come, that others may need this too.
And this is the law and the prophets.