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 (with a few minor modifications).
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.
Listen to the story closely and after it has moved your heart, follow your instinct and allow it to guide you in what you do next.
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, lifted 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, are always the right size, are always in style 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 (oftentimes in multiples of the original gift).
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.
Addendum: Reflections - 2016
As the year closes down, I am reminded of blessings present and absent. Growing up in a small town in Newfoundland, we were never wealthy but we were never in need. Our Christmases were always filled with abundance of happiness and love and my parents always found a way to make the holidays special.
In my Life, through the lean years and the abundant years, we have never been in need. That is, unfortunately, not the way it is for MANY people and my heart struggles with understanding how this can be in a world filled with abundance and opportunity. I'm not a feel-good person who doesn't understand the problems present in our society. I am, however, unable to accept how so few people carry the weight of helping people in need while many who are not in need do the bare minimum (or nothing) for those who struggle. It's like the statistic that 5% of eligible blood donors actually donate blood even though over 95% of people will need a blood product in their Lifetime.
Our program to help battered women and children in shelters donated over half a million dollars in gifts and clothing this Christmas to people we will never meet to show people who have been abused that they are loved and that they matter. They will never know who their donors are either. I mused about the impact of such a gift in this post from last year - Your Power to Reinvent a Life.
The guys in the office will give up Christmas at home to bring hot, freshly cooked turkey meals and toys to families in need this year.
And yet as we sit here in the office winding up a lot of complex business deals, we still struggle with one question......
Is there more that we can be doing?
The answer is yes but we need some help.
Could you be THAT person, the person who steps up and does one more thing for someone who could really use help this year? Every act of love, kindness and sharing matters.
If people put as much energy into helping others as they do in arguing over politics, complaining that their $5 latte doesn't have enough "whatever", buying someone an extra something they don't need, etc., we could change our world.
The world is waiting for you.
What are you waiting for?
Create a great holiday, no matter how you celebrate it. The moments in time matter. Cherish and savor them. Help others to experience such moments and to create great memories. It matters.