Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Gift Giving and Receiving by Judy Lyden
There is a mystery about gift giving that makes me laugh. Some people readily enjoy beign generious and light hearted about giving of themselves every day all day. But for others any gift giving is a reach so far outside themselves, they recoil from gift giving as a hateful experience. Over the years non-givers pass the trait on to their families, and that's a shame because gift giving has a history right back to God.
If you look at the expressions we use in reference to gifts, you see natural gifts of beauty, charm, intelligence, athletic gift, and we often say, "He's just gifted," which means he stands above the rest.
In religion, there are the "Gifts of the Holy Spirit" and they pertain to internal gifts like wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. These are the truly human traits we all desire for ourselves and hope that we are endowed with by our Maker. My favorite Holy Spirit gift is understanding.
In scripture we see the gifts of the tablets to Moses, the gifts of the Magi or gold, frankincense and myrrh which were both symbolic to the life of Christ and helpful in his ordinary earthly life.
At the very essence of our being, there is the gift of life. There is the gift of our bodies in marriage, and the gift of children to one another. Gift is at the core of our very lives and if one is faithful, to our God. But for some reason, that brilliant sense of giving, that example from on high simply gets lost in the wash down here on earth and ordinary gift giving becomes a nightmare.
It's probably the human condition - self before you except after me. It's simply a matter of selfishness. If God had been selfish with gifts, think of what we wouldn't have. Suppose He was selfish with color. What would the world look like? Suppose he was selfish with water or food varieties?
"I don't know what to buy, to make, to get, to do..." is a common plea for help. Notice the first word in the sentence is "I." When the first word is "I" the focus is on self and not on he who the gift is for. Notice how much easier it is when we say, "My friend loves pottery, so I will," and it's not hard to finish that sentence.
Giving a gift means putting someone else first and that's the key here. Thinking of someone else before we think of ourselves is very difficult for most people these days. Spending time, effort, money and thought on another is just too far to go because all my time, effort, and money must be spent on something attached to me because it's mine.
Gratitude for a gift is also a self deferring ordeal that infuriates many people. There are those who will simply deny a gift, ignore it and treat it as if it doesn't exist, or even be angry with a gift. I remember my mother was such a person. She was very calculating about the gifts she had to give, and when she received one, she would quickly close the box and put it under something. I remember doing a cross stitch of their beautiful stone house as a birthday gift, and she never mentioned even receiving the gift, and later I found it hanging over the toilet. My mother was famous for not acknowledging a gift.
Giving to a child is a whole other matter. Children haven't been jaded by their parents hideous habits. Children love gifts and they should. Gifts are a beautiful part of nature and the good nature of good people. Gifts are fun, exciting and add to life like no other thing. When children's faces light up because they get something new or something they wanted for a long time, the faces of angels are mirrored in them. Joy is something to sing about, and a gift is often the thing that brings on joy. When I visit my grandboys, one of them will say, "What did you bring me?" and I love that because I can give them a stick of gum, and they are delighted. If I have nothing that day, they are satisfied with just grandma, and the conversation often goes to something they can do.
Life is too short for the stingies - calculating every expected date, worrying about what will be expected from others or thought about others only puts self first. Anger at spending, giving, doing is so far from what God does every day, we need to re-evaluate the whole art of giving. Watch a child if you need the best earthly example of giving - they give freely of all they have and the only thing they want is for someone to say with genuine affection, "I love that! You're my favorite today."