If 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.