I have been pondering the act of giving, and how we can live more as a gift to ourselves and others. Instead of living in the commodity mode of exchange our culture fosters, how can I give of myself more steadily to others?
Is this even a goal of which to aspire?
Here is how I’ve been thinking about it. Life itself is an amazing gift we’ve all been given. If we’re alive and reading this sentence, we’re blessed with minutes and hours and days and perhaps years. The earth gives so much to us: fat books with delicious stories, blueberry pies baked by a co-worker, smells of sweet grass in fields. She gives us sunrises, sunsets and wild thunderstorms.
Just think of what she supplies, so graciously, oh it’s nothing. Here’s breakfast, lunch and dinner and even a decadent red apple hanging oh-so-beautifully from that dappled tree. Here’s wood to keep warm, wind to blow your laundry dry, cool lakes to relieve that summer heat.
Dive in, enjoy all the gifts!
And do we consciously think about this during the course of our day, humming thank you, thank you, thank you? Or are we, as I’ve been many times, too preoccupied with the pain and terror and fear in the world, too caught in the web of the mind spinning its doom scenarios?
Gratitude can too easily become cliché, if we’re not in the nitty-gritty of receiving and giving. I can remember doing “gratitude practices” on Facebook and elsewhere, listing ways my heart appreciates. But too soon this can become stale, for gratitude is born out of the grace of the present moment, always new, always fresh, never truly programmed into a rote practice.
Life is possibly meant to flow through us. Gifts flow in daily–sometimes tiny gifts of a phone call, a kind word, a giggle with the supermarket clerk.
And then gifts flow out of us back into the world. Here, my friend, take this zucchini, cut it into rounds, and grill it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Here, my friend, it’s your birthday. Please take this beautiful cement or clay leaf–just because you once admired it at my house–and enjoy it. (Thank you, Catherine, how I love my birthday gift of that leaf!)
And we can give by constantly recycling to St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill, letting our accumulations flow through us back into the community. Here, take this yellow shirt that I once loved and buy it if you adore it, too. Here, take this old bread-maker machine and churn up some whole wheat sourdough bread, and maybe share it with your children or lonely neighbor along with a cup of cinnamon tea. Here, please, take this globe our school no longer needs.
Here, take this, and this, and this.
Why do we accumulate so much that we really don’t need? What force keeps us hoarding, piling, stuffing our cheeks with seeds for a possible doomsday? Or because we can’t bear to let go, or because just maybe we’ll need it someday?
What if our true riches, rather than simply money in bank accounts, lies in our friendships, communities, gifting cycles?
So many unexpected gifts keep appearing! I could write paragraph after paragraph about the way the Universe gifts. See the Fossil purse up above? My mom was sending it to Goodwill. Oh, but I loved it immediately, and she opened her hands and urged, “Take it, Kathy!”
See one of the tame chipmunks (Chippy by name) who gives us endless joy simply by being himself?
And my blogging friend, Fountainpen, has sent dozens of homemade notecards over the years, along with tea bags, and sweet notes. (Thank you, Fountainpen!)
I think it’s possible to be more alert to existing as this channel of life, opening, opening, allowing gifts to flow through. We see someone who needs money, assistance, friendliness. We let our gifts flow like water, like a mountain stream, like Lake Superior.
Receiving gracously is just as important as giving, I’ve learned. For some people, it can be easy-as-pie to give, but they refuse to allow themselves open to receive. The Universe is always urging us to develop both skills, the humble allowing of flow in both directions, in and out, in and out.
(And, yes, there are times when it’s important to close down to sharing with others and simply share with ourselves. Gift ourselves with silence, peace, love and forgiveness. For unless we do that, we’ll drain ourselves dry into the fallow fields of obligation.)
Please share any ideas of stories of giving or receiving that have nourished you or others. I am so inspired thinking about this lately.
And, as always, thank you for reading. That is a gift for me.