Tag Archives: gifts

The Present of Presence

12 31 15 ChristmasIf you participated in the whirlwind season of shopping malls and traffic jams trying to find the best present to give, or if you got smart and let Amazon.com do all the hard work, I’m sure on New Year’s Eve you are breathing a sigh of relief! Bought it, wrapped it, gave it, done!

Did you get what you wanted? Were you like Ralphie in the 1983 holiday classic, “A Christmas Story,” yearning for his Red Ryder BB gun? Did your wish come true?

I had a thought today while I was debating, “What will I eat today?” It occurred to me that some children are probably wondering, “Will I eat today?” Their daily diet probably consists of the same food, while here I was thinking chicken, fish or beef?

Not everyone is concerned about the latest video game, the biggest, curviest TV screen or the hottest fashion. Some on this planet are more concerned with the basic necessities of life.

A girlfriend of mine sent me a birthday card this month that was the most unique card I’ve ever seen. Made by “Me to We,” the back of the card read: “This card makes a positive impact on the world. We Give Farm Seeds. Because of you, a farmer in a Free The Children community was given the seeds to grow food, helping ensure their family is nourished and healthy.”

Also on the back of the card was a numeric code. One could enter the code on a website and it would show you where the life-changing gift was delivered. I logged in and saw that my card’s gift went to the Narok South District of Kenya. Reading the story of the life of a typical farmer, I felt a sense of connectedness and joy. We can buy gifts for those we know, but how often can we positively impact the life of someone we will never meet?

Actually we can impact people every day, with a smile, a kind word, holding the door open for a stranger and yes, letting the car that has been waiting patiently into our traffic lane! (Remember, someday we are going to be the one wanting to get into traffic!)

Sometimes people don’t realize the impact they can have on another simply by their presence. Or conversely, by their absence over the holidays. Mariah Carey says it perfectly in her classic Christmas song, “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” She didn’t care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree; she just wanted to be with the man she loved.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk, author and activist says it perfectly:

“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When our mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”

When it comes down to it, sharing the love of family, friends and loved ones is the true spirit of the season. Presence not presents.

Last year, my friend Susan and I had visited a nursing home on Christmas Day to bring cheer and song to the residents. This year, my friend Josh and I visited an ailing friend, Joseph, who was in a nursing home after suffering a stroke. As I clasped Joseph’s hand upon leaving, I could sense that he didn’t want to let go of my hand. The visit probably meant more to him than I realized. I felt a lump of emotion welling in my heart. As we walked out, I said to Josh, who happens to be one of my will executors, “Don’t ever let me end up in a place like this alone!”

Presence not presents.

Give love above all. If you make any resolution for the New Year, remember to love yourself and then to let that loving kindness spread out into the world every day in every way.

Happy New Year 2016!

P.S. Update: Five days after visiting Joseph in the nursing home, I received a text from a mutual friend that Joseph had passed away that morning. My reaction was, “What?!” I was stunned. It had not seemed that he had only 5 more days to live when I had seen him. I immediately called Josh to let him know, as this was breaking news. Josh and I both agreed that it was certainly kismet that had led us to visit the week before. It felt so gratifying to know that we had brought a little bit of joy to his last days.

This only reinforces my message. Don’t wait to reach out to your friends. You never know what they are going through, and they need the “present of your presence.” Love NOW.



Season of Light

12 22 14 SolsticeYesterday marked the December Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest, darkest night. It makes me think of the phrase, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures are getting lower. The winter nights become darker and longer, yet December points us towards a season of light, hope and renewal. The coming of a new year gives us incentive for recommitting to our goals.

When a year is ending, we focus on new hope, and our homes and cities become adorned with lights that celebrate this hope.

Since ancient times, this pivotal time in the heavens has been cause for celebration, even for the mere fact that daylight would become longer each day. Depending on your culture or faith, there are the celebrations of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and others.

But no matter what your culture or faith, we can all partake in a time of quiet and stillness to find the presence of our inner light. No matter how small or insignificant we may feel, we have the power to brighten the path for others whose experience of darkness may be even deeper than our own.

How can we shine our light this season to brighten the lives of others?

We can do so much more than we think. Just the simple act of a smile to a busy cashier (especially during the holiday!), letting that car into traffic, holding the door for another shopper, all these have ripple effects. That person is going to feel so much better for your kindness and will most likely pay that forward.

It doesn’t take money to express the spirit of the season. Respect, kindness and love are the best gifts.

It’s not all about the lights we hang on our tree, our house, our city streets and parks. It’s the light that we bring to others – now and into the New Year.

Let your light shine!

Trick or Treat your Talents

10 27 14 IndiansI’ve always loved autumn. To me there was something different in the air. There was a scent associated with the season, the crispness of the temperature as it began to dip at night, the smell of fallen leaves as they were raked and played in, the wispy smoke of bonfires, of hay, of apples and of pumpkins.

Halloween was always my second favorite season of the year (after Christmas), probably because I got to dress up in costume. And could do it legitimately. I used to dress up around the house and play act the rest of the year too. It’s a wonder that my mom didn’t send me to drama school. I wish she had!

In my younger years I was obsessed with playing cowgirl, which eventually switched over to playing Indian. My mom indulged me by sewing a fringed Indian outfit for one Halloween. I still have the photo. Ironically, years later I sewed an adult Indian costume for myself. I wish my mom could have seen it, she would have been proud.

Adults are not exempt from dressing in character. Party stores and online websites are full of adult-sized costumes of every kind imaginable. There are adult costume parties and contests – we don’t leave all the fun for the children.

What type of costume character do you choose? Is it something that maybe deep down inside you want to be? Do you want to be a superhero? A Hollywood actor? A doctor or nurse? Or the YouTube sensation of the moment?

Have you ever thought about what motivates you to choose your costume? Inevitably it is something you are comfortable with, and I think it can be a reflection of your inner mood. Costume parties allow you to tap into that inner desire.

It doesn’t have to be just a fun game that happens once a year on Halloween. You can be a superhero. Donate blood and save a life. Be that actor. Join a community theater or take part in an open mic night and let your inner actor out. Be that one who helps the less fortunate. Volunteer at a hospital or assisted living facility. Visit the sick or elderly who have no visitors.

Have a talent that you want to share with the world? Don’t hide your talents. Your gifts were given to you for a reason. Step out and take a chance. You don’t have to become famous, just share your gifts and talents with those around you.

It’s no trick. Treat yourself to the joy of letting your imagination really take shape. Find those roles in society where you can “be” that champion.

Harry Potter and his friends faced down danger and changed their world. Have you ever worked in grassroots politics or campaigned for the causes you believe in? We are in early voting week. Get out and vote. Make a difference in the world.

We didn’t stop being heroes when we became adults. That’s the treat. We actually became even more powerful.

As for me, The Black Cat will be out Friday night. You can knock me down but I’ll get up again; because black cats have nine lives.

10 27 14 Cat