It's doubtful that you'll ever find a young child who hasn't wanted a bicycle for Christmas -- and we three Hinson boys were no different. We'd spent the entire year of 1963, in fact, begging and pleading for Daddy to buy each of us one. After all, our sister had had one for years, but it was a "girlie" bike. We couldn't be seen riding that over Morrow Avenue; all our friends would laugh at us.
Still, he used the same reply each time: "Maybe for Christmas ..."
Finally, at 6:00 on Christmas morning, we hopped out of our beds and into the living room -- hoping that we wouldn't be disappointed. Underneath the tree in the corner of the room were our presents -- the standard fare of new shirts, pants, shoes and stuff. There were also a few of those new GI Joe action figures and some board games.
Then, in the other corner of the room, propped up against the couch, were two brand new Schwinn bikes! While we were overjoyed that Daddy hadn't forgotten, we were puzzled. There were three of us ... but only two bicycles! I especially took it hard, since each bike was labeled with one of my brothers' names!
My face flushed and I began to panic. Where ... where was MY bike?
Daddy looked at me and said, "Chuck, we didn't forget you. Look in the corner!"
There was ... a long, flat box lying on the floor. Certain that he didn't have time to unpack it, I tried to pick the box up. Not only was it heavy, but it sounded like a bunch of stuff was sliding around in it! I opened it just to find my bike in what seemed to be a hundred pieces!
Disappointed and embarrassed -- I felt sure they'd played a practical joke on me -- I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Then, after a moment of silence, Daddy spoke,
"Son, there's your bike! You've just got to put it together!"
I turned on my heels and half-cried, "But they got theirs already put together! Why not mine?"
He grinned and said, "Don't you see, son? If you put this together, you'll learn how it works!" He knew I'd never had an interest in mechanics. "And, if you can do it, then you'll be 'one up' on your brothers. They'll come to you to fix their bikes, 'cause you'll know how everything fits!"
So I pulled the box out to the den to start working on it. As I was laying out the different pieces, Daddy came in to talk with me for a moment (my brothers, as you could imagine, were already on the street, trying out their new wheels).
"Son, I know you're mad because this thing wasn't already put together. But the reason your mama and I did that was to show you something. You see, your brothers had theirs all put together and ready to ride. Wherever they go, they'll know we gave them those 'gifts'. Now, yours was in a lot of pieces, and you have to learn to put it together. It means that, wherever you pedal that thing, you'll know you've been given a 'talent'. One day, you're gonna find out that, sometimes, when we ask God to give us something, he'll give it to us in a hundred little pieces and want us to make what we need out of it. That way, we'll not only learn how to make it, we'll also learn how we can help others with the same need, if they ask us. We'll know how to put the parts together the way they should be."
I stopped trying to fit the back wheel into the assembly, and just thought about what he'd said.
"So, the talent is greater than the gift?" I asked.
He stood there for a second, then quietly replied, "Son, a gift can always be returned or taken back. But a talent stays with you forever. Even though your life is a gift from God, one day it'll return to Him. But the talent you learn here on earth will benefit others for years to come ..."
Suddenly, that bicycle took on new meaning ... and I learned a lesson that will forever stay with me.