For three months I wandered in my imagination (while reclining with my foot up on top of so many pillows… I felt like “The Princess and the Pea“) wondering what my next car would look like…most likely my last car. For awhile my mind was caught up in a specific type and color of car that I thought would be just perfect for me. It turned out not to be so.
Instead another car had been patiently waiting for me to come along the whole time. It was a little older, a little more experienced, and it provided some little extras that I have yet to learn how to operate but they make me smile and giggle. I got exactly the right car at the right time and my mind is still filled with wonder over how it all came to pass.
It took several family member giving ideas and gifts to make it all come true…giving in its simplest form…is the most beautiful gift of all.
I came across a Christmas message from Kent Nerburn (one of my favorite authors these days) that he wrote several years ago. His message is just as important today as it was when he initially wrote it. It made me pause and re-think the ‘miracle of giving’…I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
The Miracle of Giving
As I write this, Christmas is approaching. It is my favorite time of the year. For this one brief season we count our money not to measure our own security, but to see how much we can give. For this one season we look to make others happy and to find our joy in the happiness they receive.
How simple a lesson, and how quickly forgotten.
Almost as quickly as the day ends, we once again become takers, measuring our happiness by what we can gain for ourselves. Just days before, we were valuing our lives by the joy we could bring other people. Suddenly, we are back to the practical business of assessing all our actions by how they will benefit us.
What a sad transformation. How can we forget so quickly? Giving is one of our most wonderful and beneficial acts. It is a miracle that can transform the heaviest of hearts into a place of warmth and joy. True giving, whether it be of money, time, concern, or anything else, opens us. It fills the giver and warms the receiver. Something new is made where before there was nothing.
This is what we have such a hard time remembering. We instinctively build our lives around getting. We see accumulation – of status, of money, of recognition – as a say of protecting ourselves and our families, or as our due for being hard working members of society. Little by little, we build walls of security around ourselves, and we begin to understand the good things in our lives as the things we can lose. Giving becomes an economic transaction – what I give away must be subtracted from who I am – so even the smallest gifts are weighed on the scales of self-interest.
Even when we reach out and give, we need the return of being noticed and praised, so our hearts are really motivated by the praise we will be getting, not by the pure joy of opening to the needs of another. We are locked in a prison of our own self-interest, and we are blind to the fact that our real growth and happiness would be better served by the very actions we resist performing.
The only way to break out of this prison is to reach out and give.
Each Christmas I rent a Santa Claus outfit and go out on the streets, just to teach myself this lesson anew. In that Santa suit, there can be no subtle playing for self-congratulation or benefit. No one knows who I am. I am simply Santa, the man who gives.
I go into nursing homes, grade schools, hospitals. I stop and talk to kids in parking lots and bring presents to people who need them. Parents pass me notes and make requests, some wanting me to reassure their children of the reality of Santa, others just wanting me to pay attention to their child.
Being Santa costs me money, time, and no small amount of grief – one time two young kids ran a stop sign and banged their car into mine, and I couldn’t bring myself to turn them in, because how can Santa press charges on Christmas Eve? But despite every inconvenience that it involves, I would not give up playing Santa for anything. I receive too much in return.
People who are focused on getting can never understand this. They might think that what I do is praiseworthy. They might even say, “That must make you feel good.” What they don’t understand is that it is beyond feeling good; it is creating good. It is bringing good into the world where before there was nothing.
Giving is a generative act. When you give of yourself, something new comes into being. Two people, who moments before were trapped in separate worlds of private cares, suddenly meet each other over a simple act of sharing; warmth, even joy, is created. The world expands, a bit of goodness is brought forth, and a small miracle occurs.
You must never underestimate this miracle. Too many good people think they have to become Mother Teresa or Albert Schweitzer, or even Santa Claus, and perform great acts if they are to be givers. They don’t see the simple openings of the heart that can be practiced anywhere with almost anyone.
Try it for yourself. Do it simply if you like. Say hello to somebody everybody ignores. Go to a neighbor’s house and offer to cut the lawn. Stop and help someone with a flat tire.
Or stretch yourself a bit. Buy a bouquet of flowers and take it to a nursing home. Take ten dollars out of your pocket and give it to someone on the street. Do it with a smile and a lilt in your step. No pity, no hushed tones of holy generosity. Just give it, smile, and walk away.
Little by little, you will start to understand the miracle. You will start to see into the unprotected human heart, to see the honest smiles of human happiness, and you will be able to see humanity in places you never noticed it before. Slowly, instinctively, you will start to feel what is common among us, not what separates and differentiates us.
Before long you will discover that we have the power to create joy and happiness by our simplest acts of caring and compassion. You will see that we have the power to unlock the goodness in other people’s hearts by sharing the goodness in ours.
And, most important, you will find the other givers. No matter where you live or travel, whether you speak their language or know their names, you will know them and become one with them, because you will recognize each other. You will see them in their small acts, because you will recognize those acts, and they will see you in yours. And you will know each other and embrace each other. You will become part of the community of humanity that trusts and shares and dares to reveal the softness of its heart.
Once you become a giver, you will never be alone.
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
Today we have two birthdays in the family to remember and celebrate…Walsh and ‘Aunt Pap.’
I still remember the evening of Walsh’s birth… everyone was over at our house for some Christmas festivities..I had been cooking and hostessing and suddenly, very quietly I knew…the time was approaching. I went over to Pap and asked her how she felt about sharing her birthday with her latest nephew and she was thrilled. December 23…brought two wonderful people into the world… special Christmas presents for all our family!
Walsh…you are truly one of those rare individuals whose name can be turned into a popular verb…as in *”He “walshed” in the room and every one felt his presence…it lit up. Thanks for lighting up my life at Christmas and every single day of the year! Happy Birthday son!
The doorbell rang yesterday afternoon and there was my great-niece Ady with her mom, Bekah, and grandmom, Susan. It was so good to see them and we had fun catching up…they had brought some goodies of all kinds…cookies, Christmas writing pad and wonderful lotions….a pampering time for me is needed for all these gifts. 🙂