“The meaning of life is finding your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Pablo Picasso
“Everyone is gifted, but some people never open the present.” Buddha
Here it is, almost Christmas. Last night, I bought a couple of last-minute gifts…and wrapped a bunch more. I have been doing that a lot at night lately. But those of you who’ve been reading this blog know that Christmas to me is bigger than the presents and that when I think of gifts I think of lots more than packages and bows…
but for new friends, whatever your background or belief, let me say that I believe we all have been given incredible gifts. Unique ones. Treasures meant to be given to those around us.
Presents that only are real when we give them away.
We may have different numbers of gifts, just like later this week under Christmas trees all around the world, there may be one gift or many. Or if you celebrate other holidays with gifts, or think of birthdays, you know not every person gets the same number of presents. The same thing is true of our talents, our unique abilities.
We may have one super stupendous gift, so outsized no one can miss it. One that can only be contained by the world.
It will be unwrapped because the world needs it. Someone will see it and recognize it and make us see it, too. Amazing isn’t it that sometimes those with a superlative skill don’t always see it and need people to point it out to them? Equally amazing, they always seem to arrive just when their gift is needed.
Some are filled with gifts, so many every day brings something new to share. Lots and lots of treasures. Something for every occasion. Something for every need. The answer to crisis events, yet also the small pragmatic response ready when required. These folks are often those so filled with graces they take their gifts for granted.
One of the greatest experiences in my life was the opportunity to work at the Syracuse Area Salvation Army with an entire group of people united by a sense of mission, a joint desire to make the world a better place for those we served. Together, what we brought to this vision was magnified by the shared ideas, talents, and abilities of the whole team. It was a joy to be a part of this giving group who encouraged one another on their journey toward impossible dreams.
Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you become is your gift to God.” I wish more people believed that. Imagine what our world could become if we all shared the gifts we had, nurtured our gifts and the gifts of others, and let them reciprocate. It could be an explosion of good will, of peace on earth, of joy and caring.
Or they second guess themselves, “My gift’s too small to make much of a difference.” Undermine themselves, “Who needs what I can offer.” Or worse, they fear to fail, “Why should I bother, look at that person, the one with the large gift…no one would want the small contribution I could make.” They never open themselves up to the world…as the Buddha said, “They fail to open their present.”
You see big or little is not the question, nor is many or a few. The real questions are open or closed, shared or not, given away or held in a tightly closed hand. Like the Christ child many will celebrate Friday, our births herald our gift to the world, a gift meant to be given away, magnified to the degree it is shared, extinguished if hidden away from the air of the world that enlivens it.
So even if you think your gift is merely a tiny spark of light, it will grow if it adds to the light of others. Joaquin Miller wrote, “All you can give with your cold dead hand is what you have given away.”
So for me, and I hope for you, this is the year to give extravagantly, not of things but of ourselves. May we all let our lights shine together, brightly enough to illuminate the world. It needs us.