The Right Gift: Mandela, Todd Burnaman and more

The Right Gift

It’s November.  Time to think about gifts.  As my momma says,  “It’s never too early to think about Christmas buying.”

I’m reminded that the best gifts don’t have to be expensive.  They just need to be covered in love.

When Nelson Mandela was South Africa’s president, he made a state visit to America.  President Bill Clinton and the White House staff wanted to give him the perfect gift.

Nelson Mandela

This story from NPR tells about the gift:

During the Clinton administration, one of Chief of Protocol Mary Mel French’s biggest successes came when her team learned that South African leader Nelson Mandela was a boxing fan.

“We wrote letters to all the major living boxers in the United States and their agents and asked if they would give a ticket to one of their major matches or a program that they signed or something that was from this famous boxing match, whatever it was,” she says.

The boxers not only sent memorabilia; they each wrote a letter to Mandela. French’s team bound it all into a volume with photographs, and President Clinton presented the scrapbook to Mandela.

“When he opened this gift he was so surprised that he cried,” she says.

From: The Art (And Artlessness) Of The Presidential Gift

  Read the entire article by Ari Sharpiro

I can imagine President Clinton and his staff watching Mandela slowly leafing through the book, savoring each page.  A man who spent twenty-six years in prison has the right to take his time.

Needless to say, Mandela’s visit was a great success.  Observers said the special gift to a special man at a special time laid the foundation for friendships on both sides.

Recently, I learned (or re-learned) about personal gifts during our estate sale.  It was an opportunity to give gifts to special people.

We gave our children things they’d normally received when we died.  It was fun.

We paired unique items to folks who we knew would cherish a gift.

Like Todd Burnaman’s duck band.

It was an old string of duck calls survived the estate sale.  I’m glad.


Just as we moved out, Todd Burnaman came to see me.  Todd is not only manager of our beloved Dry Creek Camp, he’s also one of my sons in the Lord.

And he was just the right man to give the duck calls to.   “Todd, I know you have lots of duck calls.”

“Brother Curt, a man can never have too many duck calls.”

I pointed to the metal leg band on the lanyard.  “I especially want you to have this.”

In my younger days I’d killed several ducks with leg bands.  “I believe this from a duck banded in Canada.”

Todd fingered it lovingly.  “I’ve hunted since age four and never killed a duck with a leg band.  I’ll keep it as a special gift.”

He put it in his pocket.  I knew it was the perfect gift for a friend who loves duck hunting as much as anyone I’ve ever known.

Last week—a month after this—Todd texted,  “I researched and found out the band was from a mallard drake you killed on Bundick Lake.  The duck had been banded two years before in Saskatchewan Canada in 1977.”

I mentally (and emotionally) returned to that hunting trip.  My lifelong friend James Newsom and I camped out on the north end of Bundick Lake.  We were wading in Hopewell Slough when we saw the two mallards.  I shot with my Grandpa’s old 16 gauge and killed both in one shot.

A sketch from my duck hunting years on Bundick Lake












James and I roasted one on a fire as the fog descended on a cool Louisiana December night.

Yesterday I called James and we re-lived this trip from over thirty years ago.  He remembered many of the details I’ve mentioned above. We got to “re-enjoy” this trip.

All because of a special gift to a special friend.

Thanks James for being my faithful friend for over thirty years.

Thanks Todd for taking time to research about the old duck band.  I thank you for your gift of friendship over these past fifteen years.

Special friends.

Special gifts.

Curt’s retirement party (2006).  Curt presents Todd Burnaman with a special hatchet.

“Everything someone comes up and says, ‘That’s not how Curt would have done it” just cut off the tip of one of their fingers.  They’ll quit about the third cut.”  Todd still has the tool on his desk.



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