Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 19, 2005
Make each gift one from your heart
True giving is a melding of gratitude and generosity
Light One Candle
Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?
That's one of those questions that instantly turn me into Ebenezer Scrooge, since the person asking is probably one of those super-efficient folks who has mailed all their cards, decorated their homes and wrapped all their presents by Dec. 1. Bah! Humbug!
Nevertheless, I actually believe that it's good to think about the presents we give - not for the sake of well-organized shopping lists, but for the sake of the people who receive our gifts.
GIFTS OF THE HEART
Most of us have memories of a Christmas present that touched us in a special way. So I decided to ask some friends and co-workers about the gifts that meant the most to them.
It probably won't surprise you that most people literally do think "outside the box." When people talk about the best gift they ever got, it's generally not something that came in a box tied with ribbons.
Although, in fact, one young man told me that when he was going to school and working part-time, he did find the car of his dreams wrapped in ribbons and streamers. He had searched high and low for a used car he could afford. When he found it and called the next day to make an offer, the seller told him it had already been sold.
He was disappointed until the day he opened his parents' garage and saw the car along with his whole family waiting to surprise him. He said, "it wasn't the car, but the fact that they so much wanted to help me, to surprise me.
"And my brother (who bought it) simply wanted to do something for me."
A couple, who married later in life, decided that for Christmas they would come up with creative and inexpensive trips to take together.
"We unwrap our secret plans every Christmas morning after worshipping the Infant at our church," the husband said. "We both continue to enjoy the gifts as we plan them together. Then we both get the full excitement and enjoyment of the destination so carefully chosen."
A HOMELESS HEART
Then there was the young woman who described the day she and a girlfriend walked around a cold, rainy Manhattan shortly before Christmas. Shivering in Penn Station, they had just enough money for their train fare home, when a homeless woman approached them. They explained they had nothing to give her, so she left.
A few minutes later she returned with some money she had panhandled and offered it to them so they could buy some coffee and warm up.
They refused the gift, but one of those young women told me that seeing homeless people always humbles her.
She says, "Having someone be able to retain a sense of generosity in the worst of circumstances reminded me of how compassionate the human spirit can be."
And one woman wrote to describe a Christmas that was a sad first for her. "I was at a board meeting for a local shelter and my heart broke every time I was able to agree to give them more time - 'Who will come help the kids make stockings?' 'I will.' 'Who can come wrap presents?' 'I can.' 'Who's available to serve Christmas dinner?' 'I am.'
"My mom had recently died and I'd never had so much free time. But when the days came to help out there was no more broken heart. My heart was full of thanks for the opportunity I'd been given. It was the most special Christmas I ever had."
GIVE FROM THE HEART
Maybe the most memorable gift in your life is something you were given. Maybe it's something you gave. No matter.
If we give from the heart, gratitude and generosity are always tied together.
As St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, said, "Everything is a gift."
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