The Chipped Vase


Wisdom can be found in the most unexpected places. Glancing through the Astrology column the other day, I read that one should never despise a gift—no matter how poor—since it might be the only thing that the giver had to give.

Most people would agree. But, I wondered, isn’t it human nature to be more delighted with the more elegant, the more elaborate, the ‘better’ gift? Though we are taught to value each present, what birthday child treasures a small gift as much as some special thing he has always wanted? And though we exclaim with delight over all that we are given, perhaps our inner response is not the same for every offering.

Then, still wondering, I remembered something that happened had long ago. In that memory I was a child watching my mother arrange flowers in a new vase.

Actually, it wasn’t a new vase at all. It was so shopworn that the flowers that were painted along the side had faded, and there was a big chip at the top. My mother had a very large supply of every kind of vase, so why this one?

She smiled  at my question. “It’s from Mrs. Kono,” she said.

Even more curious! Mrs. Kono was the rag picker lady who passed our house each day. Neighbors whispered that she was homeless, that she seldom bathed, that she was always drunk. Nobody had a good word to say about her, but Mrs. Kono owned a much loved dog, Shiro, and she and my mother had bonded over their pets. They had many long conversations, and often Mrs. Kono would go on her way with snacks for Shiro and a bouquet from my mother’s garden.

“She knows I love flowers,” my mother explained, “so she wanted me to have this vase. She found it and thought I would like the pretty thing.” But, I protested, it was old, cracked, and not pretty at all. Why give such a thing as a present?

My mother explained that Mrs. Kono was very poor. “But she thought of me. I think that was kind, don’t you?” Then she carried the chipped vase to the living room and set it in a place of honor.

I remembered the sunlight that slanted on the chipped vase and on my mother’s face as I recollected the truth of a lesson learned long ago. In our too often materialistic society, the gift can easily become more important than the giver. It is in honoring both that we realize the value of our own humanity.

Arranging flowers,

Sunlight golden on her face

And on the old vase.

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About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: My blog is here: Or friend me on Facebook!

14 responses »

    • Thank you so much for reading, Sandra! Mom was wise… and perceptive. She would see through a person’s outer appearance and appreciate their inner self. People loved her for her kindness… once, when she old and ill, her doctor appeared at the door with a bouquet of roses for her! She really was unique.

    • Thank you so much, Janet. Mom was a fascinating character. She was gentle and gracious, but when she thought someone was being unjustly treated, she could be formidable! I am grateful for the lessons I learned from her.

  1. What a wonderful reminder for all of us how we often don’t recognize or value the intrinsic beauty of a gift and its giver. This lesson is especially valuable for our young folk. While some may appreciate the gift of time, attention, a poem, story or homemade present; others may need to learn by example what the real meaning is of a gift lovingly given no matter what its monetary worth.

  2. Do you remember the episode of Winnie-the-Pooh taking a jar of honey to Eeyore on his birthday? But along the way Pooh Bear gets hungry and samples the honey to “make sure there was no cheese in it.” Soon he has eaten all the honey, so he present the empty to jar to his friend, saying, “Here’s a jar you put something in.” Shortly after that, Piglet comes running with a balloon to give his donkey friend. Along the way, the little pig trips and pops the balloon. He presents the wilted balloon to Eyeore, saying, “Here’s something for you.” Eeyore is delighted! “Now I have something to put in my jar!” Your mother sounds like a lovely person–kind and wise.

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