David Bruce: Gifts Anecdotes

Once a visitor came to see Mulla Nasrudin and brought him a gift of a duck, which Nasrudin accepted happily and used to make duck soup for his visitor. Although the visit was very enjoyable, it led to a problem for Nasrudin, because soon many more visitors came to his house for hospitality, announcing that they were friends of the man who had given him the duck. Finally, Nasrudin decided that he had to stop such pushy visitors when the “friend of a friend of a friend of the man who brought you the duck” arrived at his house. So Nasrudin sat the man at his dinner table, then served him warm water in a soup bowl. The shocked visitor asked, “What is this?” Nasrudin replied, “This is the soup of the soup of the soup of the duck.”

After woman jockey Mary Bacon got divorced, her former husband had nothing to do with their daughter. He didn’t see her, didn’t call her, didn’t give her birthday presents. Just before her fourth birthday, his daughter used to think each day that the mail carrier was going to bring her a present from her father, but nothing ever came. Finally, the daughter told her mother, “Daddy doesn’t love me anymore.” Ms. Bacon ended up buying a present, signing her ex-husband’s name on a card, and mailing the present and card to her daughter.

Nicholas Waln (1742-1813) was both a Quaker and a wit. While living in Philadelphia, he became aware that someone was stealing wood from his woodpile. By keeping careful watch, he learned that his next-door neighbor was the culprit, so he arranged to have a load of wood delivered to the neighbor. Instead of being pleased with the gift, the neighbor felt insulted and angrily demanded of Mr. Waln what he meant. Mr. Waln replied, “Friend, I was afraid thee would hurt thyself falling off my woodpile.”

When King Charles II visited St. John’s College, Oxford, he was much taken with a portrait of Charles I and asked that it be given to him. The Head of the College was unwilling to do so, so the King said, “I will grant you any favor in return.” With this proviso, the Head of the College gave him the portrait. “Thank you,” King Charles II said. “What now is your request?” The Head of the College replied, “Give it back.” (The portrait can still be seen at the College.)

Conductor André Previn has in his office a jack-in-the-box; the puppet that comes out of the box is a conductor. This was a gift to him from British playwright Tom Stoppard. One day, Mr. Previn had told him that he had to fire someone and didn’t know how to do it. Later, Mr. Stoppard gave him the jack-in-the-box and said about the puppet conductor, “Just put a note in his little hand, reading, ‘You’re fired.’ Then have the fellow come in and hand it to him.”

A man claiming to be a prophet of God was brought before a skeptical Caliph. “All prophets have been given a gift by God,” said the Caliph. “If you are a prophet, you will be able to prove it by showing us your gift.” The man claiming to a prophet replied, “You are right — all prophets have been given a gift by God. My gift is the ability to read men’s minds. Allow me to demonstrate: Right now you are thinking that I am not a prophet.”

During a literary discussion in which lesbian author Valerie Taylor was participating, this question came up: “What is the function of the novel?” Ms. Taylor’s son Jim was listening, and he responded, “The function of the novel is to pay the rent.” Later, Ms. Taylor discovered that Thomas Hardy had said the same thing in a preface to one of his novels, so she bought a copy of the novel as a gift for her son.

“You’ve heard of L. Ron Hubbard. He wrote science/fiction for those who had knowledge of neither. He was a thoroughly second-rate man who had the great good fortune to live in a second-rate time. By a series of curious chances one of his stories took off into the world of third-rate people and became the basis for Mr. Hubbard’s great gift to the brainless, Scientology.” — Henry Morgan.

The great dancer Bill Robinson, aka Mr. Bojangles, was much beloved by police officers — he often held benefits for the widows of police officers who had been killed in action. In 1928, the officers of the 132nd Precinct in Harlem gave him a gift: a gold-plated revolver with a pearl handle and a magazine that was filled with gold bullets.

Enrico Caruso once took his wife, Dorothy, out to buy furs. They went to an expensive store, and several furs were laid out before her. He asked her, “Which you like?” She named the shortest fur, because she thought that it would be the least expensive, then Mr. Caruso turned to the store attendant, and said, “We will take them all.”

When Robert McCall was dying of AIDS, fellow figure skater Toller Cranston wanted to bring him a gift during one of his many visits, but he didn’t feel that such things as candy, books, or flowers would be right. He solved the problem by buying his friend an expensive kaleidoscope, a gift that Mr. McCall greatly enjoyed.

While serving as Patriarch of Venice, the future Pope John XXIII frequently saw an unshaved priest. The Patriarch felt that it is important to be well groomed, but he did not wish to embarrass the priest by pointing out the fault, so he sent the priest an electric razor as a present.

Author Joel Perry once wrote an article that praised shopping at Bloomingdale’s. The good people at Bloomingdale’s liked the article so much they sent him a bag filled with free goodies. Mr. Perry’s only regret is that he didn’t write the article about Tiffany’s.

Wherever Mother Teresa went, she gave away small cards with prayers or religious songs printed on them — she joked that they were her business cards.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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