It’s that time of year again known as Christmas. Whether we’re a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu – believer or unbeliever – we probably all welcome a season that’s devoted to GIVING. For that’s when humanity is at its best. That’s the time we transcend our petty thoughts of self-interest and reach out to others. In the words of Cicero (106 ~ 43 BC), “In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in doing good to their fellow men.” As I write, malls are swarming with shoppers looking for the perfect gift. So, I’ll devote this space to making some suggestions. The good news about the priceless gifts I recommend are that they are affordable by all. Here is a list of gifts you may wish to consider.
1. PEACE OF MIND. Instead of upsetting others with anger, suspicion, or impatience, grant them peace of mind by being understanding and accepting. Drop childish demands, the need to always be right, and the insistence that others live by your rules. When you grant others peace of mind, you will discover your own. For as someone else wrote, “The road to daily happiness is not hard to find, it’s what we do for others that brings us peace of mind.”
2. FORGIVENESS. This is not only the season for giving, it is also the season for forgiving. Although there are many similar cases, the media carried a story this week of a mother who forgave the man who brutally murdered her daughter. By releasing the rage she felt in her heart, she was able to get on with life and focus on doing good, instead of wishing harm to another. Is there a coworker, relative, or neighbor that you are holding a grudge against? If so, isn’t time to forgive and forget? Someone said to me, “I can’t forgive my neighbor because she is so rude.” But isn’t it rude to call one’s neighbor rude? So, you see, when we find fault with others, we defile ourselves. We can’t cast mud on others without splashing some on us.
3. JOY, EXUBERANCE. No one likes a complainer. So, rather than whining, start dining at the banquet of life. Start spreading the good news. Spread cheer, not fear. Avoid hanging out with malcontents. It’s true that misery loves company, but you don’t have to accept their invitation.
4. YOURSELF. Give the greatest gift of all, yourself, by serving others. When you do so, you will experience joy. For as the Nobel Prize winner and Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore (1861 ~ 1941), wrote, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
5. HOPE. Discouraging words can destroy people and encouraging ones can uplift them. Offer the gift of hope by heeding the words of Albert Schweitzer (1875 ~ 1965), “Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.” Rekindle the flickering flames of those around you. And don’t neglect yourself, for as Harriet Du Autermont writes, “No vision and you perish; No Ideal, and you’re lost; Your heart must ever cherish Some faith at any cost. Some hope, some dream to cling to, Some rainbow in the sky, Some melody to sing to, Some service that is high.”
6. UNDERSTANDING. Try to put yourself in the place of others and understand how they feel. In this regard, George Washington Carver (1864 ~ 1943) offered this advice, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because some day in life you will have been all these.”
7. FRIENDSHIP. Can you imagine anything more painful than loneliness? To help eliminate it, be a friend. By offering companionship and support, you help make their and your life worthwhile. Or as Amanda Bradley wrote, “Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!” Also worth sharing is Amanda’s poem on friendship: “We may not always realize / That every thing we do, / Affects not only our lives / But touches others, too! / For a little bit of thoughtfulness / That shows someone you care, / Creates a ray of sunshine / For both of you to share. / Yes, every time you offer / Someone a helping hand … / Every time you show a friend / You care and understand … / Every time you have / A kind and gentle word to give … You help someone find beauty / In this precious life we live. / For happiness brings happiness / And loving ways bring love; / And Giving is the treasure / That contentment is made of.” (Amanda Bradley, http://www.amandashome.com/eachlife.html)
8. COMFORT. A gentle look, a soft touch, or a warm embrace may be all that is needed to lessen the pain of another. Isn’t it amazing how so little effort on our part can change the life of another for the better? Here’s sound advice from the Dalai Lama (Bstan-‘dzin-rgya-mtsho), “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
9. A SMILE. A smile puts people at ease. It tells them you are not a threat. It lightens their burdens and raises their hopes. And when it accompanies another gift, the recipient is twice rewarded. Robert Alan put his thoughts on smiling in verse: “Sometimes just a smile on our face can help to make this world a better place. Stand up for the things that are right. Try to talk things out instead of fight. Lend a hand when you can, get involved this is good. You can help to make a difference in your neighborhood.”
10. A CHANCE. One of the great gifts we can offer to another is a chance. If they’ve gone astray, we can give them the opportunity to make up for their misdeeds and recover from their mistakes. By recognizing that people make mistakes, we give them the courage to change. What better way to make a better world?
The above represent only some of the many gifts we have in our power to give. We can decide on the most appropriate one by asking ourselves, “What is the most loving thing I can do for the person now before me?” Our gifts don’t have to exceptional. Even small ones will do, for as Mother Teresa (1910 ~ 1997) said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” As we go through life dispensing gifts, we discover who we are and who we can become. And with time we will learn that the good we do for us dies with us, but the good we do for others lives on.
I”ll end with a quote from an unknown poet,
“Somebody did a golden deed; Somebody proved a friend in need; Somebody sang a beautiful song; Somebody smiled the whole day long; Somebody thought, ‘Tis sweet to live; Somebody said, I’m glad to give; Somebody fought a valiant fight; Somebody lived to shield the right.”
Let that somebody be you.