A gift from a student

He was unusually early this morning. He took a seat at the corner, wrote something on a piece of paper and inserted it in a book. He approached me and said, “Sir, this book is for you. Thank you so much.” Without waiting for me to say anything, he turned his back on me and returned to his seat at the corner, just then his classmates came.

The truth is, I do not think I can still write anything of sense from this point on because my system does not work whenever I receive compliments or gifts. Good words are automatically considered by my brain as platitudinous unless they come from official memoranda or my chair, unless they have bearing in my career. Otherwise, I think of them as cheap fakery.  As for gifts, I am also almost always wary of the intention of the giver. I spent my childhood gift-less as I had to compete with my other siblings for favors from our parents and the people around. Our parents, having wisdom like hermits locked in forgotten caves of Timbukto, opted to curtail in us that childish craving for gifts, and this I brought with me until now that I’m in my twenties. Along with this is my shameful lack of grace whenever I become the object of praises, commendations, and gifts.

I searched in me the reason that motivated my student to give me a book about the life of a saint, subtitled “The Joy of Faith”. He must have sensed in the course of our past discussions that I am faithless. He must have wanted to share with me his joy of finding his personal savior. Had I been in my usual acrimonious self, I would have felt insulted and give him a taste of tart sarcasm. But I was not. In fact I was deeply touched.

I looked at the cover of the book, smiled at the idea of me reading it, leafed through the pages, and read the concluding paragraph (I usually begin by reading the last few pages), and then called his attention. “Salamat,” I said.

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