Kaylinda’s father kissed her and her mother Jeannie goodbye as he hurried out the door on his way to work. She then got ready for the day’s assignments, prior to the virtual online Academy’s live instruction via Zoom which 17-year-old Kaylinda attends every weekday along with her younger brother as part of their homeschooling which she loves. Getting to spend a couple of hours broadening their education while most students spend that extra time traveling to and from school is another reason her parents find the program so worthwhile. On this day, one of the subjects was about the traditions various nationalities brought with them or that originated in America.

Today’s subject had Kaylinda’s full attention. It was about a tradition that seemed to originate among the Scotch and Irish in the Carolinas and North Georgia, before spreading to Pennsylvania and throughout the South. It is called a Sercy – an unexpected gift, not associated with any special occasion or holiday. It’s a token of appreciation, love and care. Even though a Sercy is an inexpensive item, it lets the recipient know someone cared enough to go to the trouble. A Sercy is an encourager that almost always brightens the recipient’s day but is not to be reciprocated. The class instructor said how the Scottish word for surprise sounds like surcee. The Scottish verb Sussie is to take the trouble, to care, to bother oneself. Some people say there is a French connection to the word Sercy. Regardless of the origination, it is a most worthy tradition.

At the conclusion of the class, the teacher gave them the assignment for tomorrow which was to give examples of a Sercy and why some inexpensive item that normally is a nice surprise knowing they were thought of, is in many cases also treasured by the recipient. In addition, the students were to think of someone they might send a Sercy to or some item they gave to someone in the past that fits the description of a Sercy.

Kaylinda looked at her mother after logging off Zoom when the class concluded. Mom, have you ever received a Sercy or sent one to someone? Her mother Jeannie seemed lost in thought for a moment, much to Kaylinda’s surprise. Her mother left the room soon to return with her “Keepsake” box. She opened it and took out a beautiful hair ribbon with colorful silk ribbons cascading down from the bow. Kaylinda was in awe. “Mom, where did you ever get this from, I love it.” It was given to me by someone I loved very much and who loved me. Her mother said it wasn’t a romantic love but a genuine love and care that few people have ever known. She went on to explain. My father died when I was in eighth grade. My mother worked long hours struggling to pay the bills. Our next door neighbors, the McIntoshes, were wonderful people. When we had problems with the car or the house, Mr. McInstosh took care of it for us. In the evenings before my mother got home from her job, I would go over to their house where he would help me with my homework, and encourage me by his belief in me. Spiritually, academically, athletically, he had a great impact on my life.

He had an unusual sense of humor which I thoroughly enjoyed. I will never forget that when we were working on my grammar assignment, I asked him if he enjoyed grammar when he was in school. He said he would never forget how his teacher embarrassed him in front of the class when she told him he needed to spend more time with his grammar. He wasn’t sure what came over him when he exaggerated his Southern accent, telling the teacher that was impossible because his gramm-mar died years ago so he couldn’t spend more time with his gramm-mar. He said the whole class was silent as Mrs. Hanson, his teacher, stood there staring at him with a very stern look on her face for a few seconds that seemed like forever. And then she started to laugh, much to his relief and that of the entire class as they all joined in. When I had such a sore throat I could hardly talk, he told my mother what to give me and then to thank God I wasn’t a giraffe. When I got blisters on my feet playing basketball, he got me back playing again in no time with a solution for that problem along with telling me to be thankful I wasn’t a centipede. I miss his humor, even if sometimes it was more of an attempt to brighten my day than ha, ha, funny.

We were sitting on his front porch one Saturday when the mailman came by, chatted for a few seconds and went on his way. Mr. McIntsosh said if it wasn’t for bills, he and his wife would never get any mail. I told him I was 15 and had never received a letter or anything else in the mail. Two weeks later there was a small package in our mailbox addressed to me. I could hardly open it as I was so excited. Inside was this hair ribbon. I cried – I was so happy. Even though there wasn’t a return address on the package I knew immediately who it was from. It was the most beautiful hair ribbon I had ever seen. He always called me Jeannie with the “long brown” hair instead of light brown hair as in the song written in the 1800’s by Stephen Foster, the father of American music, which I was familiar with from history class. I put the ribbon in my hair and ran next door. I couldn’t wait to show him. That is also when I learned about what he called a Sercy. I treasured it then and still do to this day. Oh how I miss him and his kind heart!

This hair ribbon not only reminds me of my neighbor and his genuine love and belief in me, it reminds me of the importance of keeping the tradition of Sercy’s alive whenever the Lord brings someone to mind as a way of sharing His love, letting them know they are worth “the trouble” as the tradition says, which actually for the sender or giver it is no trouble at all but a pleasure.

The next day during the class the teacher was elated by the students’ enthusiastic response to their assignment. Jake said when he was about seven his family got to go to the beach one summer. He said he didn’t have any money to buy something for his grandparents so he brought them a beautiful sea shell he found on the beach. He said it has been ten years and they still have that sea shell on the little lamp table in their living room. Makisha told how her father, a geologist, always brought her some unique rock or item he picked up on one of his trips. She laughed when she said even though she is now sixteen she still looks forward to receiving them. Timmy said his mother put the little ceramic dog he made for her in 8th grade on the window ledge in the kitchen as her daily reminder of the unexpected surprise gift from her son that made her feel so special then and still does every day she looks at it.

Jenna said how she surprised her father with a painting she had painted in art class. She was so surprised when she visited his office in town to see that he had replaced the expensive painting that had been on the wall behind his desk with her painting. She gave her father the biggest hug he ever had received seeing how proud he was of her painting and how much he obviously loved her.

Jeannie said she often wondered if there were things in the Bible that would fit the description of a Sercy. Kaylinda replied, well some people might think it is a bit of a stretch but what about the olive leaf the dove brought back to Noah. It was an inexpensive, unexpected surprise that is for sure. And in addition, the olive tree is mentioned in the Bible in relation to God’s blessings and provision. Receiving that olive leaf must have encouraged and blessed Noah and his family knowing that after having been on the Ark for 150 days in obedience and trust in the Lord, they would soon be able to walk on dry land once again. Mom, come to think of it, every time we get sick, you and dad give us Olive Leaf Extract that you said your Mr. McIntosh called a “doctor in a bottle” and you always refer to it as a blessing from God. Jeannie looked at her daughter with admiration in her eyes. You are so astute, she told her daughter. Yes that is a great example of a Sercy.

Kaylinda said she wished she had someone in her life like her mom’s Mr. McIntosh! Her mother told her the most important thing is letting the Lord use you to be that person. Kaylinda said mom, “I am going to pray the Lord puts someone on my heart and that I will respond by sending them a Sercy before another week has gone by.” Her mother replied, when God gave you to us, you certainly weren’t inexpensive, even though you were unexpected and a surprise, her mother laughed. But when it comes to the most wonderful gift we ever received, we thank Him every day for you and your love of Jesus which encourages us and blesses us every day of our lives.

I Thessalonians 5:11 – “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up just as you are doing.”

Galatians 6:10 “Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those of the household of faith.”

In Isaiah 44:3 the Lord says He will pour water on those that thirst. The water here refers to His blessings, mercy and love. Just as water refreshes us and all living things, we all experience days when we feel lonely, tired, and spiritually weak as if we are walking on a dry, dusty road. Today is the day that you can let the Lord use you to pour water on someone who thirsts, refreshing them with Christ’s love! And since a Sercy is not to be reciprocated, pray the Lord puts someone on your heart you can send a Sercy to as you also share this story via the Christian Short Stories.com website in addition to social media or personal letter through the mail for which we give permission to use this story.

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