I’ve been hearing a lot about gifts and giving lately. Whether it be in class, in prayer, regarding recent disasters, or the approaching Christmas season, the concept of gifts and giving is all around me.
Although difficult to take time out of my hectic schedule, today I pause to ponder: what I am thankful for and what am I giving (i.e. contributing to the good of society)? Many things come to mind.
I am thankful for my family, my dogs, my home, the invitation to more author events, and ability to facilitate a retreat on rebuilding. I’m grateful for my faith, my friends, good books, my favorite bulky sweatshirt and indeed that warm wood stove (yes, I’m noticing the cold weather). I’m thankful for the view from the back deck, our holiday traditions and our simple routines that make us smile.
Being thankful is an emotion that brings joy and peace. Remembering to be grateful is the challenge. Often we focus on getting to work, taking the kids to soccer practice, cleaning the house, making lunches, fixing the leaky sink… and a hundred other time-consuming, energy-guzzling, life-required duties. They pop up, one after the other. If we wait until we’re finished to take a moment to stop, see, and enjoy the good, we will miss a whole lot of it. Our Creator gives us countless good things through the people and events in our daily existence. It’s nice to pause, not just for the sake of saying, “thank you,” but to feel gratitude; actually pay attention to and savor these everyday gifts. Increasing my awareness of such certainly produces an overall effect of happiness and serenity.
When I consider what I give, I may for a moment take pride in having recently supported causes for hurricane relief and cancer research. Then I start to wonder... that’s not enough. I need to make time to get back to the retirement home and visit some elderly friends. I need to impart a bit of tolerance to a few, and forgiveness to another. I can’t help but recall Matthew 25:34-40. Come... you gave food when I was hungry, visited me when I was ill, clothed and welcomed me… when… whenever you do so for the least of my brethren...
I recognize giving means more than carefully chosen presents to loved ones, and more still than donating money or possessions to a few in need. Contributing also includes sharing time, energy, spirit and prayers. When a friend is hurt or upset, I want to offer an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, and perhaps some advice or assistance. I don’t want to quickly suggest, “It’ll be fine,” as I dash away to my next obligation. When a relative complains about their next “big issue,” I question myself; did I give them enough time and attention? It’s not always easy. When a coworker undermines me or someone I care about, I consider the many ways I can react; do I offer a prayer asking God to care for them?
I tend to watch my favorite home improvement shows while in the kitchen, where I spend a good deal of time. Recently, a couple was asked what they wanted most in a renovation. They looked at one another. The grandmother of a healthy brood (maybe twenty) said, “I just want space and time with my family.” She cared nothing for the things in the home, just a place to enjoy being with others. “Wow,” I thought, “Good answer; no fancy fixtures, custom cabinets, or marble mantles.”
As I conclude, I’ll promise to once again make a point to notice the small and wonderful gifts in my life; I’ll also make a conscious effort to share more of all that I have to give. I sincerely know that when I am more frequently focused on what we shall call, “both sides of gifts and giving,” I feel better, stronger, more content, fulfilled and whole.
Here are a few highlights from an adorable article on animal giving1:
Dolphins as well as cats give gifts to humans. Cats, both wild and domestic, offer dead prey in order to teach their young (or in the case of pets, their master) how to hunt and therefore acquire food.
Dolphins appear to offer what they consider very valuable resources, let’s say delicacies, like eel and tuna, to humans. In one well documented case, to the biologists in Australia who were studying them.2 Sharing outside a species is quite rare. Those dolphins never cease to amaze me!
Bonobos noted in the article share fruits and food not just in mating practice, as do many animals, but they share to others outside their own group with “stranger” bonobos.
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’
Then they will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
- Matthew 25:34-40
Lillian Corrigan uses writing to learn, inspire and encourage both others and herself. No stranger to devastating, life-altering hardship and loss, she's begun working as a motivational author.