This weekend I celebrated the 50th year of a close friend. It was a momentous and intimate gathering, and many people who could not attend contributed their thoughts and feelings about the birthday girl via letters to be read aloud. As we sat around the candlelit table, sharing these heartfelt words of appreciation, I could feel what a profound and powerful gift was being exchanged. We were all deeply moved, ricocheting between bursts of laughter and tears. My friend saw clearly her talents and her gifts. She was reminded of her invaluable worth. She could rest in the knowledge that, no matter what successes and failures she had encountered thus far, her innate gifts were being received and put to good use.
With just weeks till Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, etc. presents are on the top of our minds and lists. Perhaps you’re saving money and doing a homespun thing, or completely abstaining from the gift exchange this year. While many find something deeply pleasurable about the ritual of the hunt, the find and the wrap, others get lost in a time-ticking, money-sucking frenzy.
Material gifts are important. They are tokens. They are part of ritual. But if you’re getting caught up, if you’re feeing pressured or resentful, it may be helpful to remember that when all is said and done, most of these gifts will not be remembered. They will likely end up in the landfill.
At my friend’s celebration, I was reminded that there are gifts you open, and there are gifts that open you. The gift of true appreciation, and the gifts of our own humanity — our talents and virtues — open others to their own talents and deeper truths. They open doorways, important conversations, and channels of healing and understanding. These innate gifts are the ones that are truly priceless.
In the hours you spend driving, hunting, surfing to find the perfect items that will put a big smile on the faces of your loved ones, don’t forget to honor the simple gift of who you are and its power to do just that. And if you feel uncertain or insecure about your innate gifts, don’t wait until you have a big birthday to be illuminated or reminded of what they are. Gift others with the opportunity to appreciate you, to share their experience of your presence.
Perhaps the best give you give yourself this year is to understand, celebrate and focus on your own character.