Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. – William Arthur Ward
You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. - Robert Louis Stevenson
Sharing this story has become an annual tradition for me at this time of year and so, by popular demand, I share it once again.
Some years ago when Harry Jr. was very young, I had pulled into a Toys R Us parking lot in New Jersey on Christmas Eve to buy him more "stuff". Even though my son had so much stuff that he rivalled Toys R Us in inventory, for some reason I felt like I had not purchased enough for him for Christmas.
Just before I stepped out of my vehicle, a story came on my favorite National Public Radio station (WNYC in New York) and something about it caught my ear.
For the next 10 minutes, I sat in silence and listened to the story. When the story was over, I started my truck and drove out of the parking lot in silence.
I had received an important message about Christmas when I needed to hear it. The “teacher” always appears when the student is ready and my Christmases have never been the same since.
Of the many traditions I have at Christmas, there are two that I find to be important:
- I always listen to the story I heard on WNYC at least once.
- I always share the story with others and encourage them to listen to it.
The story I am referring to can be found here and in the video below.
The Nature of Gifts
When we are young, we look forward to the gifts that Santa will bring and that family and friends will give us.
As we move into adulthood, we learn to appreciate the opportunity to give gifts to those who are important to us as well as those to whom we send gifts to anonymously. At the same time, we are bombarded by commercials encouraging us to buy as much as we can for others and to treat ourselves as well to “small” items such as new automobiles, expensive vacations, etc.
While the ability to give and receive gifts in difficult times is a privilege, there are many gifts around us that no one could ever afford if a price tag reflecting their true value were applied to them – gifts such as but not limited to love, friendship, camaraderie, companionship and service.
And as I reflect upon my personal and professional Life and I remember the great people who have come into my Life, whether to lift me, enrich me, teach me, learn from me or test me, I realize that some of the greatest gifts that I have received in my day-to-day Life, in addition to my faith, are those people who have made me a better person.
Where would I be without those people who knowingly or unknowingly taught me, influenced me, guided me or corrected me?
More importantly, how can I thank so many people for such valuable gifts?
In truth, it would take as long to thank them (or longer) than the years I have remaining, but I suspect for many of them, it would be gratitude enough if I took the opportunity to make sure that I do for others as others have done for me.
Difficult times are with us and before us. As you take time during the holidays to buy tangible gifts for others, don’t forget the value of your intangible gifts. Gifts such as love, kindness, friendship and support are much more valuable, last much longer, never break, never tarnish, never need batteries and will affect far more people than the tangible ones.
And unlike many gifts that never fit, these gifts are never returned as undesired and in fact, are often returned in kind or paid forward.
When we receive such intangible gifts, we know their importance and their value.
Let’s remember this when we choose to put these gifts “under the tree” of someone who could use them this holiday season or any time of the year.
As you celebrate this holiday season, please remember those who are not as fortunate as you are. There is more than enough love to go around – we just need to make the effort to share it unconditionally.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Happy EID or Merry Yule.
However you celebrate these days, cherish them.
And help others find a way to cherish them as well.
In service and servanthood, love and gratitude. Create a great holiday experience for yourself and others, because merely having one is too passive an experience.
PS For those who can’t find the links on the NPR website to hear the story, they can be found here: