The Greatest Gift

This article was written by Sally McKirgan

I have a true story, a beautiful experience really, about the greatest gifts I ever received.

It was Christmas 1987. Earlier that year, in April, I had started studying A Course In Miracles, and I had made the commitment to do one lesson each day no matter if I “got it” or not. I must have been on or about Lesson 245. At the time I was working in downtown San Francisco for my husband’s company and ran banking errands every afternoon. San Francisco was decked out as usual with wonderful Holiday decorations, and with the throngs of shoppers it was chaotic and exciting. The weather was cold and a damp; fog hung in the air. The afternoon sky was white with the chill. As I was returning to the office I stood on the corner across from Macy’s waiting for the light to change. I noticed a group of homeless people sitting in front of Macy’s, and in particular a young woman, sitting on a blanket with a child on her lap. The thought went through my mind: “That could be Mary and Jesus sitting on that hard street, needing a place to stay, cold and hungry.” As I stood there I reached into my purse, pulled out a dollar, and put it in my pocket, deciding I would give it to her when I walked by. The light turned green and I proceeded across the street with the crowd. As I approached I saw that she had golden reddish curly long hair and a freckled face with very fair skin. The baby was in her lap, wrapped in a blue blanket, and she was writing a sign with her free hand asking for money for help. Just as I leaned down to give her my dollar saying “God Bless,” she looked up and said “Thank You” in the warmest voice I have ever heard. Then our eyes locked. The gift I gave was puny and insignificant in comparison to what she gave me. Her gift was the sight of Great Heavenly Rays! As I looked down into her eyes, I saw Great Rays of light shooting heavenward, up to the right. It was only an instant. I was so shocked I stepped back immediately; eyes brimming with tears, I stumbled up the street. As I walked back to work I was in shock. What on earth was that? When I got to the office I started to tell my husband but my eyes filled with tears; I couldn’t speak and he was so busy he didn’t notice my bewilderment. I thought maybe I should go back and see her but actually felt afraid to do so! Words cannot do justice to the experience, of course.

I wrote a poem about it called “The Greatest Gift” (see below). I even tried to get it published, sent it to the Examiner and Macy’s, but no one believed it. They must have laughed! Later when I could talk about it, I told a few Course friends but my words fell on kindly but bewildered ears. Don’t blame them, as it sounds pretty weird!

In writing to you I just now tried to estimate out what lesson I could have been on. I started counting from mid-April to mid-December and figured around number 245. When I just now looked it up, it sounds like it set me up for the amazing day I had:

Your peace is with me, Father. I am safe. Your peace surrounds me, Father. Where I go, Your peace goes there with me. It sheds its light on everyone I meet. I bring it to the desolate and lonely and afraid. I give Your peace to those who suffer pain, or grieve for loss, or think they are bereft of hope and happiness. Send them to me, my Father. Let me bring your peace with me. For I would save Your Son, as is Your Will, that I may come to recognize my Self. (W-pII.245.Heading-1:8)


The Course speaks of the Great Rays, but when this happened I was only reading the Workbook and not reading the Text so I did not know of their existence until later. Chapter 15 (“The Holy Instant”), Section IX (“The Holy Instant and the Attraction of God”) refers to the Great Rays: “As the ego would limit your perception of your brothers to the body, so would the Holy Spirit release your vision and let you see the Great Rays shining from them, so unlimited that they reach to God.” (T-15.IX.1:1). I think it was a holy instant that I experienced. With your immense expertise with the Course, you may see it differently. Below is the poem—I love rhyme as you can see.

The Greatest Gift

It happened one Christmas Season
in front of Macy’s store
There she sat on O’Farrell Street
holding her baby near the door
On a thin blanket with the brightly
decorated windows behind
Her sweet blue bundle in her arms
the cold fog soon to entwine
And writing a sign with one hand
asking for money for help
Shoppers busily passed them by
with eyes and hearts unfelt
Because at Merry Christmas time
we are in such a crazy rush
We do not want to see the pain
and so our minds say “hush”
But when I saw her freckled face
and blond-red hair aflame
I thought: “Mary and Jesus
that could be their names!”
Taking money from my pocket
as I hastened across the street
And kneeling as I said “God Bless”
that’s when our eyes did meet
What happened next mystifies me
as warmly she said “Thank You”
I fought back tears, I did not know
exactly where to turn to
The gifts she gave were Brilliant Rays
ascending to Heavenly Love
Rising up to the right entering
the Magnificence Above
It was as if a choir of Angels
had gathered nearby on wing
To glorify all life on earth and
Bach’s Mass in B Minor to sing
Many times I have tried to explain
the vision from her blue eyes
But words seem so inadequate
and how can love be described?
How could that puny dollar have
deserved such a priceless gift
I was speechless and could hardly think
it left my heart bereft
The gift of grace she gave to me
was far grander than mine to her
Oh God above forever help me
be grateful for love so pure
You may not believe this miracle
seen in front of Macy’s store
And it’s been said to give not receive
is what this life may be for
But if you will believe and recall
come this Christmas Season
That when you give you too will receive
and God’s Love is the Reason!

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
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