Thursday, December 26, 2013

Silver bells and ugly sweaters...

Have the silver bells finally stopped ringing? Did those reindeer with the scratchy hoofnails that go "click, click, click" on the rooftops finish their rounds without falling off?

Sometimes it seems like once it all starts it will never end. But here we are on the day that is either tinged with a shade of disappointment or replete with exhaustion--or both. Um, not so fast, you remind us: we still have New Year's Eve to deal with.

Scarlett tells me that I can think about that tomorrow, so bug off.

But I'm not here to grumble and "bah humbug" your day off to a grumpy start. The holidays simply reminded me of something that has been tumbling around inside my head even before Santa visited multiple parties and millions of home to enliven our lives, to toss a bit of magic glitter onto our heads and hearts.

He tries, but is often met with reactions that belie that effort as various recipients grouse that "this isn't the color I wanted" or "I don't LIKE marshmallows on my yams" or "It's great, but I just got one last night, too!"

In other words, we have forgotten how to be gracious. We qualify, we complain, we behave with a petulance that acts like a blast of cold air on the warmth that was intended by the giver.

To be gracious means to peer past the concrete in front of us to the love or fellowship or friendship peeking out behind that ugly sweater or duplicate CD or casserole with an ingredient that isn't our favorite. To give to someone who qualifies or quantifies everything is frustrating, to say the least. The long-term result may be to abandon the effort altogether, knowing that our well-wishes won't be accepted well at all, no matter what we do.

To be gracious means to be "well-mannered, courteous, considerate, friendly." And, even though it isn't included when you cheat and visit the on-line thesaurus, here's a word I will add to the list: accepting. It means to accept that ugly sweater with a smile and a hug to acknowledge what the giver meant by handing it to you at all. Or unobtrusively moving aside the bits of bacon you hate from the casserole that was made with love for your pot luck. It means a heartfelt "thank you!" as you unwrap that CD by the artist you don't follow.

As we add maturity to our years (notice that I didn't use "get old"), we come to understand that people matter more than things do. The item they just handed us isn't the gift at all. The gift is that we are here to hold it close to our hearts and they were willing to give it.

And once we smile and offer a sincere hug to the giver, gift receipts help.

“The only gift I have to give, is the ability to receive. If giving is a gift, and it surely is, then my gift to you is to allow you to give to me. 
Jarod Kintz

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