There I was, running through the Great Mall of Milpitas and the clock was ticking. Just 4 days before Christmas and I was in hot pursuit of the Ultimate Gift! You know how every year the news media declares one toy as the hottest and the hardest to find, creating mass panic for shoppers everywhere? Cabbage Patch Kids. Beanie Babies. Tickle Me Elmo. They all paled in comparison to the ultimate gift I was chasing in December of 1993 – the Red Power Ranger action figure!
I had wasted two weeks running around to every mall in Northern California. I had Grandparents stationed at the back doors of Wal-Mart stores in the midwest. I spent every night calling classified ads listing 10 times the retail price, but each time I was just a little too late. I realized I was about to disappoint my 4-year old son Evan.
I tried to break the news gently. We sat down in front of a crackling fireplace, with the smell of warm sugar cookies in the air.
“Hey buddy… you know how you asked for a Red Power Ranger for Christmas?”
“Uh huh, I want it more than ANYTHING!”
“Well, Daddy and Mommy have been searching all over, and so many kids want power rangers, the stores have run out. Even Santa’s elves can’t make enough.”
He just stared at me.
“Evan, what I’m trying to say is… you probably WON’T get a Power Ranger in time for Christmas.”
He slowly looked over at the fire, and I fully expected him to start crying. Instead he turned back to me and said “That’s OK, Daddy, we’ll just make our own.” And then he ran upstairs…without even grabbing a cookie!
I looked at my wife Carol, “Oh Lord the boy’s so upset, he’s lost it! You can’t just ‘MAKE’ a Power Ranger!!”
He came running downstairs 5 minutes later with a handful of markers and some white posterboard. He said, “Sit down Daddy. You draw the power rangers and I’ll color ‘em in!”
I had to admire his spirit! I drew all 5 Power Rangers in karate action poses, and he carefully colored them in – red, black, blue, yellow and pink. I cut out each one with a little base so it would stand up on its own. The whole project took just 30 minutes, and we made an entire set of Power Rangers… together.
He scooped them up, and started playing with them right away. No trace of disappointment at all. Lesson from a four year old – my time was worth more than any gift from a store.
Fast forward 15 years and Evan was going off to college. I was cleaning out his bedroom closet when I found the blue plastic tub filled with Power Ranger toys. Oh yes, he eventually got the whole set – quick change rangers with rotating torso, karate chop action and matching megazords!
But there in the middle of the tub were the 5 “posterboard” rangers that we made together. He never threw them away. It reminded me of the lesson he taught me about how I prioritized my time 15 years ago.
I believe you have more ways to give your time than you may realize… your knowledge, your experience, a shoulder to cry on. In the next couple of weeks, your moment of truth will come. Someone will ask for 30 minutes of you. Will you be able to set aside your search for the Red Ranger and spend time with that person who needs you?
YOUR time is worth so much more than any gift from a store.
(This post is an excerpt from a speech I originally presented in the 2009 Toastmasters international speech contest. I’m just resurrecting it here in time for Christmas.)