For holidays and birthdays, Shaggy Hair Boy and Smiley Girl usually make each other presents rather than buy them. Homemade presents are more meaningful, and they want to take an eco-friendly approach. And also, neither one of them has any money.
Shaggy Hair Boy had heard Smiley Girl talk about these glass jars that they used to have at a restaurant in her hometown. The jars had handles on them – that’s what made them cool – and they were sold, filled with spices, at the front counter. But the restaurant has since switched to plastic jars, and they no longer sell the eco-friendly glass ones. So Shaggy Hair Boy decided to try to find a jar to give to Smiley Girl for her 21st birthday.
First, he checked ebay. But no one was selling the jars. It’s a small restaurant so that’s not a surprise. But he kept looking, and soon he found a cooking blog that showed the jars. He emailed the woman listed as the contact, who told him that the jars were no longer being sold. That started a chain of emails. “I wanted one for a birthday present for my girlfriend,” he told the woman.
“I might have one in my kitchen still,” she said. “I could wash that out.” And that’s what happened. This woman (a total stranger) washed out the jar that she had in her kitchen, wrapped it carefully, marked the package as “fragile” and sent it to my son. She said in her note that she was a romantic and the mother of three sons. She added, “I hope you are putting a ring in the jar.”
"I'm a romantic as well," Shaggy Hair Boy wrote back. He told her that he and Smiley Girl will need to wait another year or so before getting engaged since they are both still in college. Then he finished making the gift. He bought a bag of starburst candies and figured out he could fit 66 into the jar. He wrote down 66 happy memories (or things he loved about his girlfriend), each one on a little slip of paper, and then wrapped each candy with a memory, before putting them in the jar.
The gift was a success. Smiley Girl was happy and surprised to get the jar, and she loved the little memory-wrapped candies. Shaggy Hair Boy sent a report back to the woman who had given him the jar. He added at the end: “Thank you so much for lending me your jar and maybe one day I'll lend this jar to someone else. You are sincerely the nicest stranger I have ever met.”
The woman emailed back that his sweet note had made her day. She loved the idea of him paying the favor forward someday. She added at the end, “Tell your mother that she raised a wonderful son. We mothers like to hear that.” So Shaggy Hair Boy forwarded the email to me. And Smiley Girl took a photo of the gift.