Two young men were married on the same day in the same town. They were the same age and the same intelligence. Neither was wealthy. Neither was poor. They lived with their new wives in similar houses. Both were happy.
For the first eight years of marriage, on their anniversary, each young man purchased a gift for his wife. Both were proud to be married to wonderful women who were simple in their tastes, and they felt compelled to bestow capricious items upon them that the women would not dream of buying for themselves. However, while each man spent a lot of time considering which gift would be just right for his wife, they purchased very different gifts over the years.
The first man decided he would spend all his spare money every year to buy his wife something new and quality. At the end of eight years, she had accumulated eight lovely designer handbags. She was pleased with the gifts, especially since she knew her husband had chosen to give the handbags to her rather than spend that money on himself each year.
The second man, however, spent very little money on gifts for his wife. The first year, he bought her a potted plant to put in the window of her office. The second year, he purchased a new comforter. The third year, he gave her a framed photograph of her parents. The fourth year, he found a new lamp to put on her side of the bed. The fifth year, he wrote a small book of poetry about her.
The sixth year, though, he spent a little more money, buying a Persian rug for their living room. The seventh year, he bought a gold necklace that took her breath away. She vowed to wear it only on the most special occasions. He smiled. And in the eighth year, he bought her another diamond ring. This one was inscribed with another vow to love her forever. When she saw it, she cried and promised she would also love him forever.
Over the eight years, the two men had spent exactly the same amount of money. But the second man's wife was far happier with the gifts she had received.
While the first wife was grateful for the handbags she'd been given, and she certainly loved her husband, he had not given her an exceptional gift over all those years.
For five years, the second wife did not receive nearly as expensive a gift as the first wife's gifts. You might even say she did not receive nearly as good a gift as the first wife's gifts. However, the last three gifts the second wife received all brought more joy to her than any handbag could.
The boy nodded. He didn't completely understand, but the wise man saw that understanding was slowly dawning on the boy.