Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

April 18, 2016

Gift is a glorious word. It can mean many things, be they big, be they small, be they incidental or even life-changing. A gift can be a present you give to others or something you give to yourself.

At its most pristine, a gift is given from the heart with no strings attached, no expectations other than that one sees a need, and if they can fulfil it, they do.

One spiritual leader of a class I took told us the most pristine giving is when the gift is anonymous. He gave the following example. If someone is in financial need, the ideal way to help is to put some funds into a plain envelope and secretly leave it in the struggling person's mailbox.

In these uncertain economic times, sharing one's money is too often not possible or even wise.

Still, giving a gift colours the way we live our lives. Some presents can be free but still create a welcoming atmosphere. The actions can be small but still pack a powerful impact.

A cheerful "Good morning" as one passes a fellow worker's door is a soothing way to start the day. Doing it to one and not another can, conversely, create an uncertain feeling.

MANNERS COST NOTHING

To many, this is just manners, and manners cost nothing, as my Gramma used to say. But in so many ways, when practised with natural grace, being thoughtfully polite brings great rewards.

This polite attitude brings rewards outside of home and the workplace. Cut off in traffic? It happens too often on Edmonton streets. Perhaps the other driver could not care less about you or anyone else. Or, maybe they just lost their job. Perhaps they or a loved one just received a cancer diagnosis.

Whatever the other driver's reason, giving them mental absolution douses any road rage flames. (Practically speaking, it is also prudent to give the the car that cut you off a wide berth until you go your separate ways.)

Gift-giving flourishes when you open yourself up to the gifts life offers. Stepping outside in the morning and listening to the bird song can stop you in your tracks.

You can give back to those birds by taking yourself down to a wild bird seed store and learning about nesting boxes. Staff can also counsel you in the event a bird flies into your home or business window. There are simple ways to prevent this.

Gift-giving to yourself can be as simple as always being present in the moment. Many struggle with depression or anxiety and miss out on life's parade.

This hit me profoundly when I recently travelled to do an assignment. The journey was along Highway 16 to Lloydminster.

I had never been to that area of the province previously, so I was intent on not losing my way.

RURAL PARADE

All of a sudden, about an hour along in my trek, my attention flashed to big rolls of hay in the fields lining the highway. I pushed worries aside and began watching this rural parade.

Stands of protective evergreens and poplars usually meant there was a farm house snuggled behind those branches. Sometimes there was; sometimes there wasn't.

I wondered what life was like for those rural folk - the isolation, vagaries of weather and price fluctuations, encroaching urbanites.

HARMONY WITH NATURE

There are the joys too. They live life in harmony with nature. Still, I could not stifle the worry about the impact of climate change on their lives. The sloughs seemed full though, and most were still imprisoned by winter's ice.

I loved catching sight of galloping horses, grazing cattle, resting bison.

This gift of peace also gave me a wakeup call. If these rural people work hard to grow my food, the least I can do is support them. So I vowed to frequent farmers' markets from now on.

SAY 'THANK YOU'

That too is a gift - knowing how my food is was raised and grown and the chance to say thank you to the growers. Indeed, saying thank you for a gift allows the grace of gratitude.

As Trappist monk Thomas Merton said: "To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything. . . . Every breath we draw is a gift of his love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from him."

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)