In preparation for the 2016 Bethany United Church Spring Gala Auction Les asked me to look at a carving he was donating. It was beautiful piece of woodwork depicting a well-known bird, which I believe was a Chickadee. The fact I cannot be certain tells you everything you need to know about my understanding of birds and bird watching. My mother loved Blue Jays, many of friends love Eagles but for me there is only one species of bird, a Woodpecker. I don’t know if it is the sound they make or the colours of their bodies or their unique headdress. But I love Woodpeckers and the only bird I typically look at and listen for is a Woodpecker.
On the day Les showed me his carving I told him he had done a great job and I was certain it would fetch a high bid. And then I added, “But you know I won’t be bidding, our walls at home are full and the only way I would replace any of our art is if I found a Woodpecker carving.” I think I took Les by surprise. Les laughed, shook his head and then said, “Leave it to you to select the Woodpecker as his favorite bird!” As the New Year came and went Les told me he had decided to work on a Woodpecker carving as his 2017 contribution to the Gala Auction. He added, “And you better be prepared for bid on this after all I wouldn’t have done this without your suggestion.” I had my checkbook ready.
As plans for the Gala got more serious and some of the donated items started coming in Les arrived in the office with the Woodpecker carving. I was amazed, the colours, the detailed work, the quality of the wood and the finish, and most importantly the Woodpecker itself, how real and live-like it appeared, I was overwhelmed. I told Les I was eager to bid and excited to have the opportunity to hang it in our home. I knew exactly where, next to the window we looked out when we saw the Woodpecker, just above the light switch a former parishioner, Vel, had decorated with Woodpecker prints. I would take down the Van Gogh print and give it to my daughter to make room for the Woodpecker. I even took down the print and left the spot empty the night of the Gala in anticipation of being the successful bidder.
I was the wine steward that night so I asked my friend Heather to make the bid on my behalf. I was prepared to spend up to $200 to get the Woodpecker. But when the bids began it was obvious one parishioner was equally passionate about getting Les’ carving. As I looked at him I knew Vince would not stop bidding until he secured the Woodpecker. So when bids went above $200 I gave Heather the signal to surrender. I was thrilled for Les and for the auction but disappointed for myself. The Van Gough print went back up.
But this week Les came to the church with items for the Fall Fair and told me he had a surprise in the backseat. It was another, identical, Woodpecker. I was stunned! I even gave Les a hug, a rare embrace from me. After Les left I prayed about how to respond. I decided to make a $200 donation in Les’ late wife Mary’s name to the Bethany Memorial Fund. It seemed fitting. I intend to quietly pass him the envelope with my thank you and the church’s acknowledgement of the gift as I pass his pew on Sunday before the service begins. It was a most generous gift and I was and am deeply moved by Les’ kindness. The best gifts are the ones you never expect from folks you never expect to offer them at times when you are completely caught off guard. Gifts are like God’s grace, they are undeserved and come with only one ask, that you enjoy them. I will enjoy this gift.