I realized some years ago that I actually receive many more gifts than I ever would have thought. I realized this when I changed the way I perceive gifts. As a young boy I certainly thought about gifts in materialistic terms. That is why birthdays and Christmas are such wonderful events. People are obligated to give you things! Of course, the reverse is also true. On those two occasions I am also obligated to give others some gifts.
Of course, material gifts count. I have had some fantastic gifts over the course of my life. A new baseball mitt that I received in my early youth was about the best gift a kid could have received. Like me, I am sure you have received many gifts during your life. Some were likely fairly expensive and others cost hardly any money. In fact, some of the most touching gifts I have received have come from natural resources and may not have cost any money. I think of flowers, for instance.
I am not sure at what age I began to change my view on gifts. I began to see that some of the most valuable gifts I was given were not materialistic---there was no “thing” that someone gave me. I am sure I had been given these gifts all my life, but I had not recognized them as such. I was reminded of this yesterday.
I got an email from a friend who sent me a link in the email. He said I would probably enjoy the sentiments in the email. So I clicked the link and recognized the name of the person who had written a short article for the Huffington Post. I follow this website of blogs, so I went to the one my friend wanted me to read. It was by Karen M. Wyatt.
Wyatt is a family physician and for twenty-five years a hospice medical director. She has written quite a bit on end of life issues. I like the things she writes. So in a sense this was another one of those non-material gifts. And it provoked me to think about writing this inspirational piece on gifts. The title of her blog is “5 Gifts to Give Yourself This Holiday Season.” So now you see why I am writing on gifts!
When we are given neat gifts, it seems appropriate to share those. And so I do share these five gifts that Wyatt describes. While a couple of them involved material things, the gift itself is not material, as you soon will see.
The first gift Wyatt introduces is “the gift of solitude.” Of all the gifts she enumerates, this is the one I think I understand and appreciate the most. I know how important some times of solitude are for me. Solitude is a necessity for my spiritual well being. And it becomes especially so during holiday times and other busy seasons of my life. Treat yourself to some solitude, too.
The second gift Wyatt discusses is “the gift of spontaneity.” I don’t think I do this one as well as the first one, solitude. Spontaneity is taking those opportunities to do the unusual. It might be going to church if you usually don’t do that. It could mean hooking up with someone you always wanted to spend some time with, but never made the connection. There are a zillion ways to be spontaneous, but it is nothing until we do it.
Wyatt brings into the discussion the third gift, namely, “the gift of wisdom.” This one is important to me and is a big piece of what I would mean by contemplative living. It means spending time with the wise people you know and the sages of history---long dead, but living through their writings. Wyatt cites the medieval figure, Rumi, one of my favorites, too. Personally, I also think about Thomas Merton, Julian of Norwich and the Buddha. This could be a profound gift for you.
The fourth gift Wyatt tells us to get is “the gift of hunger.” Now this one may seem really odd. It sounds like fasting and, indeed, it is a kind of minor fast. During holidays and special times, Wyatt notes, we may err on the side of gluttony. We eat too much; we lose our sense of moderation. So, she councils us, we can fast from one meal. Allow yourself to experience a little hunger. It is fascinating to see this kind of hunger as a gift!
The last gift she describes is really interesting to me. She tells us to give ourselves “the gift of stars.” I had to laugh. When some folks read this, I could imagine they conjure up Hollywood stars or star athletes! Maybe those are the only stars some folks can imagine seeing. To the contrary, Wyatt means the real stars---those things far up in the sky, quite visible on a clear night.
Take yourself outside and look up. Lie on the ground and stare at the heavens. Enjoy the free gift of beauty. Nature is a wonderful source and resource of spiritual revelation. Allow the stars to expand your world. Let your tiny, little world become blown up to cosmic proportions. Imagine the stars as God’s wink to you!
Inevitably most of us are pretty lucky. We will be given all sorts of gifts in the holiday season and on our birthday. There is nothing wrong with this. But they are not inherently spiritual gifts. Do yourself a favor and give yourself one or more of these spiritual gifts, too. You’ll be blessed.