It was easy to buy presents for my boys when they were young. All I had to do was give them a dollar or watch 20 minutes of cartoons and see which commercial appeared most often. As they grew older, the gift-buying grew more difficult. What do you buy a 13-year-old who has stubble on his face, loves cars and watches Care Bears cartoons?
Now that both boys are self-reliant married adults, I have an even harder time choosing their gifts. I finally understand why, from my wedding day forward, Grandma Moore always gave me gloves or handkerchiefs for Christmas. I must be in the “gloves” season of life because I have such a hard time knowing what to give my sons. Besides, if they want or need something, they are capable of getting it on their own.
When most of my readers were growing up, toys were less complicated. How could you mess up a Raggedy Ann doll? What was confusing about Mr. Potato Head? In the middle of the previous century, the most popular gifts for children were . . . games. In 1948, the #1 children’s toy was Candy Land. The year before that, the two top gifts were Scrabble and the Slinky. I still have the Slinky song stuck in my head: “It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, for fun it’s a wonderful toy. It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, it’s fun for a girl and a boy.”
Only a marketing genius could take an ordinary spring and make it into one of the best-selling toys of all time. That kind of person can have millions of people standing in line to buy a pet rock. I consider myself a man of only average intelligence. But Lord, would you give me just one idea that becomes a bestseller?
The toy phase I least enjoyed involved instruments of torture called Transformers. I believe they originated in the pit of the abyss. To operate these toys, you need two Ph.D.s: one in Engineering and another in Abnormal Psychology.
When you remove a Transformer from its package, it looks like an ordinary car. In fact, the directions say a 3-year-old can use it. First, you flip up the door, pull the wheels down and stick out your tongue. As you attempt to decipher instructions too small for the naked eye to read, the car changes into a robot.
My attempts to show my young boys how to transform this toy from one shape into another usually ended with them whining about why Daddy was taking so long to hand them their Christmas present. In disgust, I handed it over, thinking, “If you’re so smart, let’s see you figure out how to work it.” The next thing I knew, they stood there, grins on their faces, showing dad the robot that used to be a car. In the blink of an eye, the little hands again twisted the parts around at lightning speed. Before I knew it, the toy had changed from a robot to a rabbit. I looked at the box. It said nothing about this final transformation.
I think I’ve figured out my problem. I have only one Ph.D. and even that is an honorary one. And I’ve never seen the “Transformers” cartoon show. I can only hope that by the time my grandchildren come along, the toys will be Grandpa-friendly.
Even though I don’t like Transformers toys, I love transformers. As a boy, my life was changed by many caring adults. These dear people looked past what they saw on the outside to see the potential—what God wanted to do with my life.
My transformers were people like my Sunday School teacher, who told me I was called to preach. What did a seventh grader know about a call to ministry? I could barely find my socks! Yet this man told me over and over that God was going to use me mightily. And when I got a little older, I began to feel the tug of God on my heart, softened by the words of this transformer. Bro. Harry, my R.A. leader (who happened to be my pastor) was a transformer; my grandmother was a transformer; my mom was a transformer; and the list goes on.
I have to laugh at people who call themselves “self-made.” God, the Creator, designed me to fit into His perfect plan. When I came out of the box, I didn’t look like much, but He sent people into my life with caring, loving hands that shaped me into the man He intended all along.
If you haven’t done so, please let those who have touched your life know it. Most of them don’t have a clue that they are . . . transformers.