“The gift was not large as money goes, and my need was not great, but the spirit of the gift is beyond price and leaves me blessed and in debt.” ― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten
On my 30th birthday, a friend gave me a unique gift. It was a very tiny cube, 2×2, wrapped in violet- covered paper, tied in a purple ribbon, my favorite color, with an equally small tag attached. I treasured the gift, not because of what might be within the wrapping, but for what was beneath the surface. At the end of the attached tag was written, “You can never unwrap it. Please leave the ribbon tied . Just hold the box close to your heart, it’s filled with love inside.” The gift was meant to never be opened because it really was just a reminder of the value of the friendship we shared. My youngest son was only 2 at that time, and he he felt the need to know what was inside of the present. I came home one day to discover a block of wood with some wrapping paper sitting beside it. I saw the paper and knew what had happened. “Why would anybody give you a block?” my little boy demanded to know. He couldn’t understand what I knew–the package was merely symbolic of the gift of love, an abstract concept for someone only 2 and even for someone 82. I cried for a brief moment because the package had been so special, but I quickly reminded myself that the gift was what mattered. I recently heard a speaker remark when talking about our personal gifts that we can t know what a gift is if we don’t unwrap it. It made me laugh to think that my 2 year old understood that completely, while I wanted to protect the appearance of the gift more than discovering the gift itself. As Fulghum says, the gift was not large as money goes.
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” While my daddy sure believed in me, it was Jimmy Valvano’s dad who gave him a gift that is much like the one my friend gave me: a gift that was not tangible, yet was more meaningful than anything that could have been purchased. It is a gift you give when you believe in someone, when you love them fully. A good coach can challenge his players and love them all at once. A good father and friend can do the same for the people in their lives. People are hungry for approval, for a gift that can’t be unwrapped. It sounds so simple, but I’m guessing that many of you understand it is anything but that.
We’re entering the holiday season, and lots of people are already shopping for the gifts they’ll give. Maybe this year, you can change your gift-giving, or at least add a little something extra. A young child might not understand meaningful words, but anyone over the age of 18 will surely understand and treasure a gift that only you can give. Imagine that you sit down and write a note to your child who has struggled with life–maybe at 20 he has felt an absence of friends, at 25 she has experienced the painful reality that the college degree she worked hard to earn hasn’t earned her a job, or at 60 he has learned that the company doesn’t see the value in paying him for his wisdom. Whatever their struggle has been, they are probably feeling a myriad of emotions and slightly or greatly unvalued. The gift of love, of having someone believe in you, is unlike any present that can be unwrapped.
Wow, a free gift! Sounds like it won’t be a budget-breaker! This sounds so easy, but there are a lot of people who find it hard to express love, and even harder to express acceptance of another person. It isn’t a free gift, either. It comes with an absence of expectations, and that is rarely easy for people to give.
“Dear son, I grew up in a time when we were expected to join the service and then start a career when we got out of high school. I can’t really understand why it’s so important to you to go to college, but I want you to know that I think you are a terrific person. I really love you, son, and whatever you think you need to be doing is ok with me. I want you to know that your mother and I are really proud of you. You haven’t given up on yourself, and we aren’t giving up on you. We might not be able to help you with much money, but we’re standing behind you in the life you’ve chosen. I love you, son. Dad”
“Dear daughter, It was such a surprise when you said you wanted to skip college and try to make a go of it making jewelry. Our family has been going to college for the last four generations, and it beats me why you wouldn’t want to go. I’m just being honest there, but to be more truthful I have to tell you that I’m really proud of you. I don’t guess I’ve ever taken the time to say it to you, so I wanted to write it down. I wanted to give it to you in a way that you could always hold on to my words. Sweetie, you are braver than I ever was. You aren’t worried about what other people expect of you like I always was. You are your own person. It’s taken me a long time to be able to accept that you had chosen a path so different from mine, and I am proud of you and love you. If you ever get discouraged, you call me. I’ll be here for you. No judging, just love. So, Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah! Love, Mom
“The gift was not large as money goes…but the spirit of the gift is beyond price.” It might be more expensive to give than one that you can purchase at the after-Thanksgiving sales. The gift of love to a family member or friend can be pricey and priceless. You don’t have to have pretty stationery, though a nice card is an extra gift at near $5,00. You just have to give a gift that can be received in the spirit in which it should be given–unconditionally. Put it on your shopping list. No coupon needed.