Early in our marriage, my husband, Dan, was big into collecting sports cards. He had an extensive assortment of high-value cards featuring baseball, basketball, and football players like Frank Thomas, Nolan Ryan, Shaquille O'Neal, Joe Montana, and Dan Marino, to name a few.
I never saw the value in his hobby. He'd spend countless hours going from store to store in search of the hottest cards, and then he'd arrive home with his finds tucked protectively in plastic cases to ensure no one would damage them. We couldn't touch or feel his magnificent treasures. All we could do was look at each card, try to feel the thrill of owning small, printed pieces of cardstock, and speculate on how much each one would increase in value. Where's the fun in that? I'd wonder.
For Dan though, collecting is in his nature. Like a little boy, he's never outgrown his love of gathering, sorting, and determining the value of whatever "specimens" he's enthralled with at the time. The process is every bit as valuable as the product for him. I didn't understand or appreciate this—until the Christmas we barely had money to buy gifts for each other.
Dan and I typically exchanged presents on Christmas Eve after the kids were asleep. I secretly dreaded our tradition this particular year because the gift I had bought him was so meager. I don't recall what I gave him, but after opening whatever trinket I had wrapped for him, he handed me a small box. I assumed it would be some equally inconsequential offering. I was wrong.1