A Le Creuset package displaying their famous orange pots, similar to the box under my Christmas tree.

Several years ago I decided I wanted to invest in nice cookware and came across Le Creuset, a company renown for its near-century-old method of making virtually indestructible and beautiful enameled cookware. It cooks evenly, cleans easily, and can go from stove to oven to dishwasher, no problem. Excellent! It is also expensive, so I  asked my husband for a Le Creuset Dutch oven for Christmas. Le Creuset produces their cookware in nearly thirty different colors, so I specified the brilliant red called “Cerise.” Much to my delight, under the tree Christmas morning was a large heavy package addressed to me that I felt safe on betting was the pot. I tore through the paper to reveal the contents and was elated to see that I had guessed correctly. There, indeed, was a sturdy Le Creuset package under the wrapping. The only problem was the box showed a picture of an orange pot. Not red. Not “Cerise.” Orange. Orange? I didn’t request an orange pot! What in my kitchen would it match? Nothing! But it was Christmas morning, so I oohed and aahed and said thank you. Later, when I was cleaning up the gifts, I put my unopened Le Creuset box on the top shelf in the pantry, wondering how I would return it for the color I wanted later on. 

The box remained on the top shelf out of view for over nine months until finally, tired of having to move it out of the way to add other items or look for things in the way back, I decided to figure out how trade out the pot. I knew my husband had ordered the item on-line, but the pot was so heavy I didn’t want to pay the shipping cost to send it back. I had to find another way to return it. There isn’t a Le Creuset store near us, but there is an outlet location. I called the outlet and a friendly woman named Julie answered the phone. I explained that I needed to return a pot that had been purchased on-line and asked if I could return it to her store.

“I’m so sorry,” she explained in her soft southern accent, “but the outlet doesn’t carry the same product line as what’s sold on-line, so we can’t take it back here. But can I ask why you would want to return a Le Creuset Dutch oven in the first place?” 

“It’s just the color,” I told her. I asked my husband for red, but the box that arrived is orange.” 

“Mmmhmm. Which orange is it? Julie queried. 

“I’m not sure,” I told her, “It’s just got an orange pot on the box.” 

“Well, honey, they’re all orange on the box because that’s Le Creuset’s signature color. All the boxes show the orange. It’s called ‘Flame.’ We’re famous for it,” Julie replied proudly.

I paused a moment, puzzled. “Wait, they’re all the same color on the boxes?” I asked.

“Yep, the sure are,” Julie replied cheerfully.

I groaned. “You’re kidding. Let me look at something.” I put Julie on hold and got the orange box down from the top pantry shelf. Heaving it on to the counter, I opened the it for the first time and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw what was inside.

“Julie, I said, picking up the phone, you’re never going to believe this, but the Dutch Oven in this box is red. Actually, it’s Cerise, just like I asked for.”

“It is?” Julie squealed. “Well, that’s just great, honey. Now take that thing out of the box right  this minute and get cooking! You’re gonna love that pot, I promise!” Julie and I exchanged a few more pleasantries, I thanked her for her patience with me and hung up the phone, shaking my head at myself. 

I couldn’t believe the gift I had asked for had actually been in my possession all that time, but I had been too stubborn to look at it. I had incorrectly made an assumption and had allowed that assumption to cloud my thinking about the gift I’d received. Instead of spending my days making delicious sauces, stews and casseroles in my gorgeous pot, I had left my gift untouched and unused for nearly a year on the inconvenient top pantry shelf.

I wonder how many times I’ve done that? How many times have I been offered a gift that I’ve refused to use or failed to investigate its potential for myself? How often has a friend said something like, “Wow, you’ve got three kids to pick up from three different places around town at  nearly the same time—you want me to bring the youngest home?” And instead of saying, “Yes, you’re awesome, please!” I made an assumption about their time and said something like “Oh, I don’t want you to have to drive out of your way, I’ll just get him,” only to create more stress for my kid and myself when I arrived late to get him. When has someone said “Let’s get coffee this week?” and instead of replying, “How does Wednesday sound?” I assumed they didn’t really mean it and I let the invitation drop? Someone offered me a gift, but I left it in the box on the top shelf.

What about you? Can you relate? Have you been given these sorts of gifts before but left them untouched, unused, unopened? Have you made assumptions about the giver or the gift itself that make you wary of accepting their offers? When the bill arrived at lunch and your friend wanted to pay, did you insist on taking it instead? You refused the gift. When someone called to ask how you were doing and you redirected your attention to trivial complaints about the weather rather than talk about your struggles because you assumed they didn’t really want to know they details, you might have just refused their gift. We do these things all the time; leave our gifts unopened. But think about what we could be enjoying if we didn’t. Like all of the delicious casseroles and meals I didn’t enjoy for those nine months, we omit a richness from our lives when we don’t share these gifts with others. We miss an opportunity to connect and grow our relationships. We fail to build bridges that can only make us better in the end.

I don’t know about you, but here in this forty-ish age I’m in, I’m feel the importance of accepting those gifts. I need them. I long for those connection opportunities with others. I realize they’re going to get me through these times; this life. I see them as tiny particles of God incarnate in my life and know they are precious. So, no more casserole dishes on the top pantry shelf for me. I vow to open each and every small token that is gifted my way. I hope you’ll do the same.

My Cerise Le Creuset Dutch oven which I now regularly use.