Story You Need to Tell, Sandra Marinella Blog Post - Small, Treasured Gifts

Small, Treasured Gifts

My house is twinkling with Christmas lights a bit early. In truth—I needed light. Here is why. A few days ago, I awoke with tears in my eyes—I seem to cry in my sleep when I am profoundly sad. Of course, the world news has been flooded with images of war, children injured and torn from their homes.

On top of that, I had just finished reading a book gripped in the clutches of war. One that made me aware I was engulfed in war sadness.  After a few decades, I decided to reread the story of Anne Frank. To my surprise I found the definitive edition of The Diary of a Young Girl to be far more powerful than the original story I read in junior high. Many unexpected stories are woven into this version—Anne’s struggles with her mother, her discovery of sex. On these pages I found a girl at thirteen trapped by her circumstances, but a girl who remains caught up in her curiosity and finds great wonder in living. Despite hiding from the Nazis in an annex with her family, Anne manages to grow up anyway and works hard to unearth the insights and wisdom she can capture. I loved that about her.

When Anne faced a second Christmas hidden with her family in the annex, she realized they had no way of buying presents. Being determined to find gifts, she decided to do what she did best—create an individual poem for each person. Her father helped her pull off her surprise, and the poems, received with joy, were small but treasured gifts.

While I love to shower friends with books as presents, I rarely think to give them a poem—and I rarely write poems. For years I suffered from a fear of poetry, oddly called metrophobia. I was certain I didn’t get poems. But slowly poems wove a path into my life. Mark Nepo says “poems are an unexpected utterance of the soul.”  Indeed. Some poems knock you over with beauty or simply change you. How wonderful Anne understood this at her young age.

How wonderful that last week, I received a poem in my inbox.  In class, Karen Raskin-Young had told me, “My son called me a poet and storyteller as if that were a bad thing. I have come to realize that we are all made of stories–and maybe that can be a wonderful thing.” Karen is writing to find out. Here is her poem–

Wisdom Tree

We think it’s the peak,

The lofty top of the tree.

We think, when we get there,

We’ll have everything we need.

We think wisdom shouts from the rooftops,

But we’re wrong.

Wisdom grows


In the roots,

Soaking up


Digging deeper,

Getting dark

And rich.


Shared with permission of the author. ©Karen Raskin-Young

Soon after receiving this poem, we shared it in my Storycatcher’s class. As Karen read it to us, awe floated across the room. Poems can work that kind of magic.  Like reading Anne Frank again, Karen’s words reminded me that we are always on the search for what life can teach us, and it is often a deep, dark search. It may even pull you down into the depths of sadness.  But eventually we see the glimmers—the hope, the insights, the beauty—and even the wisdom. I love that.

In hindsight I see Anne’s story is one of overcoming in the worst of circumstances. It’s true her family is betrayed and that she dies in a camp weeks before the liberation, but it is also true that she was strong and found her voice, an uplifting voice, and an undying resilience that she bequeathed to millions of us in a diary she steadfastly wrote for us.

Gifts can be small—a drawing, a book, or even a poem. But if they are given from the heart, and if they are wrapped with meaning, or hope, or love, they can be the most treasured gifts. Special thanks to Karen and Anne for their thoughtful words.