“Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.” — Jean Anouilh
Several other holidays – some religious, some secular – make the month of December special. We celebrate with all walks of life, in our household we celebrate Christmas.
Are you making your lists and checking them twice? Are you scrambling for gift ideas and resources right now to make everyone on your Christmas list happy? Do you feel a bit of pressure to get it all done? Is this pressure making you run around like crazy– WITH ONLY FEW SHOPPING DAYS LEFT?!!
This is a wondrous time of year that gives us the opportunity to reflect on our lives and relationships and to say something truly meaningful to those who are special to us, usually in the form of gifts. One important thing I’ve learned about gift giving, however, is that if the gift is given out of a feeling of obligation and the giving doesn’t “lift the heart”, it is a meaningless waste of time and money.
How many of us really take the time to give from our hearts? If you are someone who does — like my daughter Ashley and my wife Mary — you can personally testify as to how incredibly different inspired gift giving is when compared to the consumer excess that’s so pervasive at this time of year. Inspired gift giving creates a spiritual synergy between the giver and the receiver. Love and appreciation are communicated clearly, warmly and simply. When I give from my heart — more often these days — I feel lighter, warmer and more alive.
Giving from your heart takes time — so the key is to slow down and FEEL the season. Experience your family, your friends and your community at a pace that allows you to connect deeply. As you do this, ideas for gifts that carry this message will be inspired. When you receive these inspirations — act on them. Get rid of the practice of give gifts out of obligation and stop giving things that have no meaning or, worse yet, create subconscious resentment.
If you have the time, I have a couple of stories to share with you:
My first story is set in 1989 when I was living in Rochester, New York, working at Eastman Kodak. I was a youth program leader at our church, responsible for working with several teenage boys from one of the area’s more prosperous suburbs. As the Christmas season approached, I brought up the subject of how we could really make a difference in our community. Several of the boys suggested collecting money and gifts and giving them to those in need, wherever they might be. So — we collected as many gifts and as much cash as we could. We contacted some local agencies and sought out the names of folks who were in need — wanting to have the experience of giving gifts directly if possible. We received a list of names and we matched them to gifts and when Christmas as about a week or so away, we spent one Wednesday evening delivering the gifts — mostly in the Rochester inner-city (some of the boys’ parents didn’t know about this part). The details of one particular delivery are so indelibly forged in my heart that I’ll never forget it.
Our list included a request for a slot car set for a 9 year old boy who lived in a very project-like apartment complex on the north side of Rochester. We pulled into the scary parking lot, parked, got out and found the address we were looking for. We knocked on the door and received no answer. We knocked again and an extremely frail voice said “Hold on a minute”. A very weak woman, in her late 20’s, with oxygen tubes in her nose and her hair gone due to chemo-therapy answered the door. The apartment was dark, cold and pretty bare. A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree with a single strand of lights and nothing underneath it stood against one wall. We told her who we were and, as we did, a boy looked around the corner. When he saw that we had a large gift in our hands his face, literally, brightened the room. We asked him if he’d like to take the present and put it under the tree — which he enthusiastically did. The little boy stayed with the gift, sitting cross-legged next to the scrawny tree. The mom hugged each and every one of us, looked us each in the eye and, with tears in her own said “God bless you boys”.
We quietly and slowly walked back to my car. When we got in, there wasn’t a single dry eye in group (these were 14 and 15 year old boys from the rich part of town). I looked each of them and said, “That was inspired and that’s what Christmas is all about.”
Mary gave me this second story — which I know you’ll love:
Christmas Is for Love Author Unknown
Christmas is for love. It is for joy, for giving and sharing, for laughter, for reuniting with family and friends, for tinsel and brightly decorated packages. But mostly, Christmas is for love. I had not believed this until a small elf-like student with wide-eyed innocent eyes and
soft rosy cheeks gave me a wondrous gift one Christmas.
Mark was an 11 year old orphan who lived with his aunt, a bitter middle aged woman greatly annoyed with the burden of caring for her dead sister’s son. She never failed to remind young Mark, if it hadn’t been for her generosity, he would be a vagrant, homeless waif. Still, with all the scolding and chilliness at home, he was a sweet and gentle child.
I had not noticed Mark particularly until he began staying after class each day (at the risk of arousing his aunt’s anger, I later found) to help me straighten up the room. We did this quietly and comfortably, not speaking much, but enjoying the solitude of that hour of the day. When we did talk, Mark spoke mostly of his mother. Though he was quite small when she died, he remembered a kind, gentle, loving woman, who always spent much time with him.
As Christmas drew near however, Mark failed to stay after school each day. I looked forward to his coming, and when the days passed and he continued to scamper hurriedly from the room after class, I stopped him one afternoon and asked why he no longer helped me in the room. I told him how I had missed him, and his large gray eyes lit up eagerly as he replied, “Did you really miss me?”
I explained how he had been my best helper. “I was making you a surprise,” he whispered confidentially. “It’s for Christmas.” With that, he became embarrassed and dashed from the room. He didn’t stay after school any more after that.
Finally came the last school day before Christmas. Mark crept slowly into the room late that afternoon with his hands concealing something behind his back. “I have your present,” he said timidly when I looked up. “I hope you like it.” He held out his hands, and there lying in his small
palms was a tiny wooden box.
“Its beautiful, Mark. Is there something in it?” I asked opening the top to look inside. ”
“Oh you can’t see what’s in it,” He replied, “and you can’t touch it, or taste it or feel it, but mother always said it makes you feel good all the time, warm on cold nights, and safe when you’re all alone.”
I gazed into the empty box. “What is it Mark,” I asked gently, “that will make me feel so good?” “It’s love,” he whispered softly, “and mother always said it’s best when you give it away.” And he turned and quietly left the room.
So now I keep a small box crudely made of scraps of wood on the piano in my living room and only smile as inquiring friends raise quizzical eyebrows when I explain to them that there is love in it.
Yes, Christmas is for gaiety, mirth and song, for good and wondrous gifts. But mostly, Christmas is for love.
Happy Holidays to all.
Until next time,
Your friends at Soul Canyon Training & Development
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