Jacquie’s Corner: The Unexpected Birthday Gift: A Tale of Travel, Thrift, and Kindness

Jaqueline M. Ruffino-Platt

Several years ago, on a brisk morning in Virginia as I hurried to work, a sense of excitement tingled within me, fueled by the anticipation of a mysterious gift awaiting my discovery. The property manager at my condo had received a large box on my behalf the evening prior, igniting my curiosity. With my birthday around the corner, the excitement of unraveling the surprise gift consumed me.

What could possibly lie within? I eagerly awaited the evening to unravel the mystery.

At that time, I was a management consultant for the Auditor General of the Navy, embarking on assignments that took me across various military bases. As I prepared for deployments to locations such as Pacific Marine Corps Headquarters, Pearl Harbor, and Coronado, Calif., the prospect of warmer climates amid my travels from chilly Washington, D.C., seemed inviting.

However, the sudden change in wardrobe requirements prompted a swift shopping excursion, leading me to a remarkable thrift store on the base of Fort Myers located in Arlington, Va.

There, amidst rows of impeccable summer attire, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of clothing, all available for a mere $2 a bag during a close-out sale. Laden with my finds, I embarked on my journey equipped with a newfound summer wardrobe, eager to tackle the assignments ahead.

Amidst the consulting endeavors and moments of rest and relaxation in Hawaii and California, the inevitable end of the trip approached. As I prepared to depart from Coronado, a dilemma arose: the surplus of clothing acquired during my travels. Ultimately, I made the decision to leave behind my thrifted treasures at the Bachelor Quarters, accompanied by a note expressing gratitude for the service provided during my stay.

Upon my return to Virginia, the impending birthday surprise awaited me: a box bearing the sender’s mark, the Military District of Washington. With eager anticipation, I unveiled its contents to discover, to my astonishment, my previously abandoned clothing meticulously cleaned, ironed, and returned to me, accompanied by a heartfelt note expressing the staff’s sentimentality.

The unexpected gesture not only brought forth laughter, it served as a touching reminder of the inherent kindness found within humanity. Grateful for their honesty and thoughtfulness, I acknowledged the gift with sincere appreciation.

Over the years, this act of kindness fostered a lasting connection, marked by annual exchanges of greetings and updates.

In hindsight, the unexpected birthday gift not only replenished my wardrobe but also reaffirmed the enduring spirit of camaraderie and compassion within the military community. Amidst the chaos of life’s journey, it is often the smallest acts of kindness that leave the most profound impact, a sentiment echoed in the simple yet heartfelt gesture of returning a forgotten treasure.