“Mom, look what he gave me!” It was a Pokemon card. It was shiny. I don’t know much about Pokemon, but I know shiny is good. Conquests and wars have been based on nations getting more shiny things.
“Can you believe it?” he says. “That was dumb! This card can beat everyone. I don’t even know if he has a duplicate… and he gave it to me!”
“What a good friend you have. Did you say thank you?” I ask.
“Yeah, but it was so dumb for him to give it to me. Now I have the best one.” Declan is confused. He cannot believe his good fortune, but he thinks he’s cheated his friend. The idea that someone can be generous simply does not occur to Declan, who is always working on his next deal.
“What should I give him, Mom?” he asks.
“Something special.” I say. “Something you think he’ll love.”
This friend is truly thoughtful. One day he brought Declan’s soccer trophy when Declan was sick on awards day. “That’s a good friend you have there,” I said. “Remember to say thank you.”
Today was much more than a trophy. It was the Pokemon card to end all Pokemon cards.
“I need to get a book to put this in, Mom. I still can’t believe he gave it to me! It was so dumb for him to give it to me.”
If ever there was a teachable moment, this was it.
“Why is it dumb? He gave you a very special gift.” I ask.
“Because he can’t win now. It’s the best card,” Declan says. He starts to rattle off things I can’t possibly understand about Pokemon cards because I am an adult. Power this, attacks that… I play with him sometimes, and I’m always convinced he’s cheating. “So, Mom,” he’ll say, “if you add up the attack power and divide by the square root of the limit of pi, you can see, I’ve won!” All this from a kid who won’t do his math paper.
“That’s what a gift should be,” I say. “Always give your best to others.”
Declan blinks twice. I see him inventory his most prized possessions in his mind. Horror crosses his face as he imagines giving his best to others.
“That’s the most generous thing you can do….” I say. “When someone thinks highly enough of you to give you something special, that’s not dumb. That’s a really good friend.”
He’s still confused.
“Your friend gave you a very special piece of himself. He must think a lot of you to sacrifice something he loves so you’ll be happy, too.” This is the essence of the God, the Universe, the love of a parent–symbolized in a single Pokemon card. This is far too deep for the present conversation. Maybe some day he’ll understand. But not today.
“Yeah,” he said. “But it was still dumb. He can’t win.” I tell him one more time, it wasn’t a negotiation, it was a gift.
“Or maybe he has a duplicate, and he’ll crush you.” I say. That possibility hasn’t entered Declan’s mind. He reevaluates the situation.
I decide the lesson should be about the eternal love of a friend, not whether there’s a Pokemon sneak attack on the way. I want him to understand the type of love we see in Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Dickens. I get back to the matter at hand.
“Life isn’t about winning,” I say. “It’s about being grateful for your very special friends.” I say.
“Yeah,” says Declan. Maybe I’m getting somewhere.
“Want to invite him over to play?”
“Yeah!” says Declan.
We’ll do love, sacrifice, and the eternal bonds of friendship another day. Today, we’ll make plans to invite a good friend for pizza.