When you hear “What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?”, many would start thinking about sweet sixteen cars, guitars, trips, fashion bracelet, and anything extravagant. It’s only human nature to picture airplanes, yachts, and jewelry. But the first thing any of us would picture is what we truly want. Is it a house, proposal, or a million dollars? Many of these items change over time, fluctuate with dreams, imagination, location, and more. So what about the practical needs? What you do and don’t have access to. What if this story isn’t about the gift at all? But how one can of soup changed two lives forever.
Three-year-old Savannah didn’t grow up with many toys, new dresses, or other impractical needs. So she learned to play outside and make friends with other kids. It began to get hard over time when she discovered most kids wouldn’t want to come over without the fun gadgets and snacks. She had boring fruit and wooden hand-me-down toys, while others lit up and flew in the sky! Over the next few years, she slowly became an outcast by neighborhood kids and parents alike. The weird family, that couldn’t afford the treats, parties, and fun.
Two years later a silver lining arrived. A shy boy moved in across the street. Ryan, timid, shy and sweet, stood half the size of most boys at five but had a head too far in the clouds to mind. At school, he noticed Savannah alone, hungry, and not up to chat. Weeks went by as his little heart grew to feel bad for the little girl alone as he played with his friends. That’s when class sharing began.
Savannah was picked to be the student of the week and shared a fact to the class about herself each day. The more she got to share, the more people began to talk to her, and finally, she thought, “School won’t be so bad.” Then on the last day of the week, she shared that she’d never tried anything from a can. But how she wasn’t allowed to at home. This is the part of the story where cute kindergartners become little tyrants. Calling her poor and weird. Ryan then cooked up a plan.
The following Monday during the show and tell Ryan dragged a giant bag into the classroom. With forks, spoons, and bowls. He stood up as if he were a skyscraper, towering over kiddos sitting Cris cross apple sauce. This was his element. “For my show and tell..”, he beamed and pointed to the bag like a magic trick. “I brought taste testers!” He poured an entire backpack of canned foods for the class. Alas, there was no can opener but the effort had full support. Children sprung out diving for different cans, picking the best flavors. All of them but one.
“Here!” Ryan ran over excitedly to Savannah nervous on a bean bag. “Pineapple is the yummiest!” She reached out nervously, wondering if her mommy and daddy would be upset that she wanted to try the (not good for you) food. “Thank you..” she mumbled as her classmates continues to scream over cans. As Ryan sat with Savannah, he vowed to bring a can every Monday for her to try and guess what, he did. he did it for years. Bringing random crazy cans from all over the world, trying it at school lunches, and helping Savannah fit in. Ryan continued to be the sweet friend he vowed to be until he couldn’t anymore.
All grown up and living different lives. Cans would still appear at random holidays or birthdays. Now being more than an inside joke it became a way to give a reminder to stay open to trying new things. On his way home on a bright sunny day in southern California, Ryan was riding home on his motorcycle when a young girl texting and driving changed the lives of his family and Savannah forever. Discovered in his backpack were a letter and two cans, an engagement ring for his girlfriend, and workbooks. The letter read, “Pineapples is where it all started, and though it seems like a silly joke, it’s always reminded me that we both can. (literally) We can try new things, we can choose to love when it’s hard, we can make the jump when it’s scary and we can become friends with the weird girl who never ate at school. Here’s to canning forever. I’m saying I can and will love Jessica soon. Here’s s a pineapple can for you and for someone else you can with. love you always, Ryan.”
Three years later Savannah still will raise a canned pineapple on his birthday to his picture. She thanks him for realizing she needed a can to start her, YES I CAN. Ryan gave that to her, and now she is constantly looking for ways that she can help others find their can. If it’s hope, love, joy, kindness, whatever they need. Because Ryan gave the gift they kept on giving because Ryan could, Savannah can.