A Note To Readers: Bonnie Mueller, a frequent visitor to this site, is my idea of what a management consultant should be - wise, energetic, down to earth, and extremely sophisticated in the structures, processes and philosophy of both human nature and business. This is an exerpt from a recent email that I thought you might enjoy.

A Special Gift

Bonnie Mueller - The Hay Group

Dear Tom:

Allow me to tell you a brief Christmas story which you may feel free to share with others if you so choose....

I've always thought of "philosophy" not only as a "love for wisdom" but also as a "gift of wisdom." For whatever reason, I've always felt that my lovefor wisdom simply was a lucky present that I somehow found along my life's journey, especially since so many seem to not "adjust their radar" to tune intosuch things until they reach a more mature life stage.

After this Christmas, the "gift" analogy seems to fit more than ever, but I nowrecognize that luck alone did not place this gift along my path.

I'll set the scene....It's Christmas morning. My parents' family room (I'm just a tender 26-year-old unwed pup...so Christmas is still spent with the folks). Everyone is done opening all of their presents. My mother (who heroically has suffered continuous bouts with breast cancer for the past three years) exits the room briefly, returning with one single box, wrapped perfectly and topped with an enormous bow. It was the loveliestpresent anyone had seen all morning. She places the gift in my lap, saying, "This last one is for you." My 32-year-old brother, my sister-in-law, and my father all stop what they're doing and turn to watch.

I read the gift tag attached to the box: "Christmas, 1999. It is with great pleasure that I give this to you. Love, Mommy. "

I unwrap the box carefully. Inside, there is a small pillow, embroidered with the famous Thomas Jefferson quote, " I simply cannot live without books." I smile tenderly. Mom knows me so well. My heart is warmed.

"There's something else in there," Mom comments as I begin to replace the lid.

I look inside to find another box below the pillow. I remove the lid. Inside, I find a book...worn, old, battered. And yet in perfect condition.

The title: "The Philosophy of Life."

The copyright: 1933.

The story: The book belonged to my mother's father, who died from cancer longbefore I was born, when my mother was exactly the age that I am now. He was asecond-generation Polish man. He never graduated from high school. He barelygraduated from elementary school. He worked in a factory his entire life.

But when he came home from work at night, he would read. And when he woke inthe morning, he would read. And when he lounged on Saturday and Sunday, hewould read. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew and understood onlythree things about my grandfather. I knew he was intelligent and that he lovedto read the great classics of literature, philosophy, and theology. I knew thatmy mother recognized in me many of the same things that she remembered about herfather. And I knew that my mother missed him very, very much.

In 1933, when my grandfather was twenty-one years old, he bought himself thisanthology of essays, chapters , and quotes. Over each page spill "nuggets" ofwisdom from philosophers, authors, politicians, theologians, poets, artists,journalists, even common men and women. My grandfather owned hundreds andhundreds of books, but it was this book that he loved the best.

Back to the family room. I look at the inside front cover. Scribbled in mygrandfather's penmanship, I find all of his favorite quotes and verses writtentightly onto the flap. I turn to the back and find one single quote, "Sciencecan give you knowledge but only philosophy can give you wisdom."

Tucked inside one page, there is a small gift card. I pull it out to read,"Christmas, 1969. It is with great pleasure that I give this to you. Love,Daddy." My mother received the gift at age 26, exactly thirty years ago. Itwas the last gift she would receive before he passed away in March.

With tears dripping down my face, I turn to look at my mother who comments,"I've been saving it for a long, long time. But I just felt that this year wasthe right moment. You were ready."

I smile tenderly. Mom knows me so well...This time, my soul is warmed.

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