Lead Photo: “Face of Autumn,” a photo created by David Keddy as a remembrance of the very spot and season where he and Norma met by Lake Banook in Canada, is an abundant gift of sharing and friendship.
Admit it. You’ve had a few stressful moments contemplating what gifts you’ll give this year and at what cost. I was there again this year as well. However, I keep going back to that wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson reminding me that “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
In that spirit, I tried to recall the gifts given to me that were just that—gifts of abundant portions of the giver rather than apologies. At first, I was stumped. I tried to think of the gift—a doll or device that warmed my heart with the love included—that fit the description. Then the realization came: the real and abundant gifts were not those wrapped and ribboned in traditional fashion. They were genuine jewels of love and thoughtfulness. These treasures included a scrapbook page from a group of young teen girls I had taught but was now leaving behind, a CD of carefully selected love songs from my husband, and a collection of funny family stories gathered and printed by our children at the busiest time of the year.
Even less traditional was a conversation with my mom when I was in junior high school. Our family business was in financial trouble, and I felt anxious as I heard conversations about our loss of income. I finally summoned the courage to ask Mom, “Are we poor?” With scarcely a pause, Mom replied, “No, we’re not poor. We are rich in love, family, music, and friends. We have a home, a car, clothes to wear, and plenty to eat. So, we’re not poor. Right now, though, we are a little bit short of money.” What an abundant gift she gave me that day which calmed my fearful heart.
I asked some friends from my high school days what abundant gifts they had received. Back then, these friends loved and shepherded me through difficult family and personal trials. More than 40 years later, they continue to provide unfailing love and encouragement. We were in the process of giving ourselves the abundant gift of our annual weekend getaway as we discussed the idea. Marilyn said she enjoys giving gifts to her family that are an “experience” and then recalled her 60th birthday. “My kids asked 60 people to write a note to me about our relationship or a memory we shared. It was so touching. I cried over so many…nearly all. I felt so valued.”
Annette explained her in-laws required the family gifts exchanged at their annual party be homemade. She sent this photo of an abundant gift from her now-deceased father-in-law. He found a license plate made in her birth year and used horseshoes to create this flower ornament that still graces her yard. She mused, “This was a heartwarming tradition which provided many laughs, tested our creativity, and pushed our talents to the limit. As we gathered on Christmas, it quickly became the most anticipated part of our celebration.”
A touching example came from my Canadian friend and photographer, David Keddy, about the gift that cemented his relationship and marriage to Aline after two previous failed marriages. When they met online and conversed about life, love, and spirituality, he discovered among other things that she loved dogs as much as he does. After numerous, lengthy conversations by telephone, they shared their darkest secrets, which he explained left nothing whatsoever to hide. She accepted his invitation to make the 1200-mile trip to visit him. She soon thereafter left everything to join him and they have shared 13 years of happiness and contentment. He summarized, “The point of this story is that the greatest gift I have ever received or given was TRUST. This trust extended to each other, but also to God and this free gift of trust has been repaid a million times over these intervening years.”
Marilyn also found these thoughts and challenge on a social media post by her cousin, Allison Edwards Lee: “As the holidays are upon us, we are all aware it is the season of giving. This year, make it matter, make it count. Whether it be opening your wallet, your home or your heart, give to those in need. It’s not always about what you can buy, it’s about what you can BE to others. Open your eyes, listen with your heart, and you will know who to serve and what they deserve to be given.”
So share yourself, your faith, and the things that bring you peace and happiness with each person you encounter. Give a generous portion of yourself and your giving will be abundant indeed.
Written by Norma Hendrickson