My daughter, Erin, took me on a cruise with her last month. One morning, as we were sitting in the dining room for breakfast, we overheard a conversation. A gentleman walked up to a table where two young men, who were probably in their twenties, were sitting. He looked upset and asked why they didn’t tell him they were going to breakfast. We didn’t hear all of the conversation but we did hear enough to know that the young men were his sons, and we did hear him finally say, “The only thing I asked you to do on this trip was to have breakfast with me.” It was heartbreaking. The one thing (which wasn’t a “thing”) that man truly wanted, he didn’t receive.
I was in a department store right after “black Friday”, waiting in line. Behind me, were two women talking about what they could possibly buy for one man on their list. On an aisle display, they saw an item that they decided to get because they “needed something to wrap”. Oh boy. This definitely seems to fall in the category of gift giving motivated by any reason other than love and generosity– this man will receive something he, likely, doesn’t want at all.
Last week in “Unpacking Christmas” I talked about how, from my perspective (and in spite of plenty of manger scenes) Santa Claus, lights and presents are the driving December force. Especially with Christmas, we get caught up in the frenzy of gift giving and sometimes (maybe often) lose the meaning behind the celebration. It’s become a “secular holiday”. I, like many other people, love the holidays. We decorate our home, always have a Christmas tree and yes, Santa does bring gifts for the grandchildren. The problem comes in when we’re buying & giving because of the guilt that says, “if we don’t we’re not enough”. We need to understand what the motivation is behind holiday giving. Gifts, freely given in love, are those that truly have value.
On Saturday evening we attended a community theater production of “A Christmas Carol” with friends. This well-loved play, written by Charles Dickens in December of 1843, has been a Christmas fixture for many, many years. Many of you are probably familiar with this story of a man named Ebenezer Scrooge who was wealthy and miserly. He walks through life miserable and angry and, rather than help those in need or show any sign of humanity, squirrels away his fortune. Each Christmastime, his nephew invites him to a Christmas party but Scrooge always pushes him away. Men approach him, and ask for help for the poor, but Scrooge but sends them away with nothing. His employee, a family man named Bob Cratchit, who has six children to feed (one of them being Tiny Tim who has health issues), toils away for very meager wages. Scrooge is so deep into his pain and anger that he can’t see anything else.
When are we so deep in our own issues that we don’t SEE those around us who are suffering?
As the story goes, when Scrooge goes to bed on Christmas Eve, he is “visited” by the spirit of his late partner, Jacob Marley. Marley is there to show Scrooge that he is spending eternity roaming the earth, weighed down by heavy chains, because (in his life) he was greedy, with no concern for others’ needs.
Have you ever sensed that you’ve been given a message that you chose to dismiss?
Scrooge is then visited by three ghosts. With the Ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge revisits his youth and sees how his lust for money lost him his lust for life.
How often do we put value on the “things” of this world instead of the people of this world?
With the Ghost of Christmas Present, he “sees” what’s happening now. He gets a glimpse into his nephew’s life–the party he refused to attend. He sees the Cratchit family, with their meager holiday meal, and sees Tiny Tim, joy-filled in spite of his disability. He’s also introduced to two children “Ignorance” and “Want”.
When do WE walk right past “ignorance” and “want”?
Finally, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, who reveals to him how people react after he dies–street people selling his clothing for a pittance, a family relieved that the debt they owed would be cancelled, no one sad that he was gone….
If we could see into the future, what would our story be when we leave the earth?
Scrooge is given the gift of truly SEEING himself. He wakes up on Christmas morning realizing that it’s not too late, that he CAN change his life, that HE can positively impact the lives of others. And, that’s exactly what he does. He rights his wrongs. He loves those who open their arms to him. He helps the poor. He dances with joy. He holds the TRUE spirit of Christmas in his heart.
What would you do differently, if you had the chance?
Winston Churchill said, “a person makes a living by what he or she gets. A person makes a life by what he or she gives.”
How generous are you? I’m not simply talking about the tip you leave for a server when you’re dining out– although that counts too. I’m talking about all kinds of generosity. I know we’re only a few days from Christmas (the most wonderful time of the year for retailers) and if you’re still looking for the perfect gift, the one that says “I love you”, the one that says “you’re important to me” let me offer these suggestions:
the gift of time
the gift of friendship
the gift of sharing knowledge
a generous smile
the gift of your resources or talents to help those in need
the gift of positive energy
the gift of giving with no expectation of something in return
a generous heart
the gift of laughter
the gift of optimism
the gift of forgiveness
a generous spirit
the gift of understanding
the gift of acceptance
the gift of kindness
I pray the end of this calendar year brings YOU gifts that fill your heart with joy, laughter and the invincible message, “YOU are special, YOU are important, YOU are loved”.
©2015 Peace Full Home/Intentional Living