What makes an amazing gift? (1/6/16)
There is delight in unwrapping a special surprise inside a colorful bag or ripping open wrapping paper decorated with ribbons and bows to uncover a thoughtful gift. Yet there are many priceless gifts that don’t cost a thing (except maybe time, talent, or kindness) which can mean so much to brighten someone’s life.
I am talking about the sharing of your gifts. We all have certain gifts. I feel so blessed by people’s gifts and wish to share this with you on the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the day to celebrate The Three Kings, Magi, or Wise Men following the Star to bring gifts to baby Jesus.
Below is a list of gifts (in no particular order of importance) which I have received by people lovingly doing something special from their heart. Perhaps you might see yourself here, or be encouraged by this list?
Gifts: Doing someone’s least favorite chore for them, going to a doctor appointment with a friend, meeting someone at the hospital before or after a surgery, holding their hand when they are scared or in pain, listening to someone vent or cry or express happy feelings, knowing what to say (or NOT to say sometimes) by lending a nonjudgemental ear, making someone laugh, writing letters of recommendation, encouraging someone, showing support for their business by posting how valuable it is on FaceBook, traveling to be with someone, giving a friend a ride, loaning a person your car when theirs is broken, helping a person understand legal work or taxes, booking a flight for a busy person, assisting with computer dilemmas, helping a person with organization, sharing financial knowledge, filling out a form or application on another’s behalf, helping with car maintenance or purchase, taking care of someone’s kids so they can rest or do other things, treating someone’s kids to an activity, bringing a home cooked meal or fruit from your garden, taking and sharing meaningful photos, offering a place to stay, postponing being repaid in full until a person can afford it, hiring someone when you know they could use the work, giving someone a discount, helping someone move or schlepp their gear, going shopping with a friend even though you are not buying anything, helping a neighbor during a natural disaster with their home, remaining calm when another person is freaking out, making someone a personal card or poem, loaning a favorite book you think your friend will enjoy, forgiving someone, being a good example to others. Of course these gifts are appreciated all the more when freely given with patience and a smile: No eye rolling allowed!
Our gifts as musicians and performers can be playing our very best with a good attitude, (even if the house looks disappointingly low in attendance), thereby showing appreciation to the audience who did manage to give their support. I was reminded of this recently when a small club in our city had top notch jazz musicians perform mid week and the event was poorly advertised. The trio gave their all, showed their love of the music, interacted incredibly with each other, had genuine fun, and expressed sincere gratitude to the handful of happy listeners. They probably made little money, but it was a joyful evening nonetheless.
One of the most awesome and unique gifts my family has ever received was being invited into the home of a dying girl.
Alyssa was at the top of her game in 8th grade – she had been the lead in her junior high school musical, a bright star of a sweet 14 year old. The summer before high school she suddenly came down with a terminal brain tumor. Her mom was a piano student of mine, and our families were good friends with their two kids being about the same age as our two daughters. Our church family prayed fervently for Alyssa’s healing, but God had plans to bring her home to His Kingdom. A whole bunch of feelings ripped through my mind upon learning of Alyssa’s illness. Shock. Sorrow. Fear. All these feelings were for Alyssa’s family, but the cancer stirred up some major fears in me. How would her family possibly handle this? If this could happen so suddenly to such a nice family, what if it happened to ours? What if God chooses not to cure Alyssa? How does a family hold onto their faith during such a crisis?
Her family reached out to ours by showing us just how they were living through this by inviting us into their home. My husband and I with our two young daughters cautiously knocked on the family’s door, expecting to find quiet somberness, but instead it opened up to the brilliance of candlelight, singing, laughter, and the fragrant smell of delicious food. It felt as though we truly entered a Holy Place, vibrant with love! Everyone was singing uplifting songs about Jesus with smiles of joy radiating on their faces. Alyssa was lying on a couch with a teddy bear, soaking in the positive atmosphere. I tried to pat Alyssa’s leg and engage her in chipper small talk, but that just seemed to confuse the teenage girl.
Sing! Was the message the family told me without words. Sing about the love and hope of Jesus! I quickly caught on. I watched Alyssa’s mother calmly talking to my daughters explaining what was physically going on with the tumor and how Alyssa was feeling. She was not in pain. Her mom explained the next stages of the growing tumor and how it would affect Alyssa’s body and mind. The family gave us the gift of lessening our fears, an understanding of what to do, and showing us by their example in the months to come how to live through such an event and still keep the faith.
Nine months after Alyssa’s diagnosis she went to Heaven and found her freedom from the tumor on July 4th. My husband and I along with close family friends played music for Alyssa’s Celebration of Life. During her service lots of love, gratitude, sorrow, tears, and support were expressed, but mostly love. I held it together well enough to play piano for her ceremony, and then afterwards our family took a long walk on the beach where I allowed myself to cry. The sharing of this journey with Alyssa and her family was one amazing gift.