I’ve recently had a birthday and was asked by several friends what I’d got, and I know that they meant gifts that I’d received, bought, wrapped and presented in a package. Although I’d been lucky enough to get plenty of these type of gifts, I wanted to reply that I’d received precious time with loved ones, a good belly laugh with friends, sharing new experiences and playing. I know this all sounds like a cliché but for me, each birthday is marked with gratitude for still being in this life and being able to feel emotions that these moments bring.
So this got me thinking. What do we think when we’re giving a gift to others? Do you think of gifts as the material kind or do you acknowledge that these come in many forms. Do you give it unconditionally? Or do thoughts attach themselves to the giving, such as, ‘I hope she appreciates it’, ‘if I give this, I’ll get that’, ‘I’ve got to buy her something so this will do’ and what about those unconscious thoughts of, ‘this will show her how much I’m worth’, or ‘this will tell him I’m the most important person in his life’ and how about when we play the martyr, ‘I’m always the one giving and get little in return’.
Many of us have these unconscious thoughts and are therefore left feeling hollow when we give and wonder why. When we give for reasons of duty, self-sacrifice, resentment, wanting something in return, we’re not really giving at all. We’re taking, we’re choosing to be needy, to suffer. By uncovering what we’re really thinking, as uncomfortable as it might be, we can choose to let go of them and focus instead on just giving for pleasure, to help and from a place of love.
And gifts don’t have to be wrapped in fancy paper and cost a penny. We don’t even have to know the person we’re giving to. Have you ever smiled at a stranger and see their face light up when you do? That’s your gift in that moment. When did you last send a message to someone out of the blue, just to say you’re thinking of them or sending them best wishes, without any expectation of anything in return?
When I was in Edinburgh last week I met a lady and we got talking. In the middle of our conversation she mentioned the book ‘Dying To Be Me’ by Anita Moorjani. She asked if I’d read it and when I said no, she said she thought I’d love it. How did she know? What made her say that? We’d only just met. The book was lying on the table of the book sales, later that day so I bought a copy.
I read it in two days and found it inspiring, thought-provoking, emotional and beautiful and it has touched me in so many ways.
So although the lady that told me about it didn’t actually buy it for me, her gift was clear. She told me because she thought it would give me pleasure, mean something to me. And she wanted nothing in return.
Notice these small and subtle gifts in your life. They are all around you, just waiting for you to accept them. Be mindful of their impact on you and you will feel as grateful for these as the gifts that come in boxes.