Today marked the end of both the semester and of my Christmas “doing” for this year. All gifts have been made, purchased, and given (or at least shipped). Cards have been given or mailed. Baking is done. I can now rest.
And as I settled in tonight to rest from the busyness of the last couple of weeks, I had a startling realization: I actually enjoyed my gift giving this year! This probably sounds odd to most people, but gift giving occasions (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) are usually times of intense anxiety and stress for me.
Shopping for Christmas presents has become ever more challenging as I have gotten older and an increasing number of people on my gift list already have everything that they really want and need. This tends to make the season more stressful than delightful as I struggle to find gifts that are more than just clutter.
This past week, I found several posts that take a look at ways to simplify and declutter Christmas, and there were a number of great ideas within these posts for gifts that will not add to clutter, as well as suggestions for reducing the clutter of Christmas decorations and for what to do with gifts that we receive that just add to our own clutter.
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement … get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” ~Abraham Joshua Heschel
One of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to a YouTube video of a flash mob that grew over the course of the performance into a full orchestra (including timpanis!) and choir. I love watching videos of flash mobs like this one as much to watch the reactions of the surprised audience as to hear the quality of the performance.
As with many of these that I watch, I am struck by the number of adults who exhibit little expression even though they may stay to watch and listen to the performers. I do see a few people smiling, and there is one gentleman at about the 4 minute mark whose whole face lights up with delight and clearly mouths an amazed “Wow!” as he arrives on the scene, but there is much less reaction than I would expect from suddenly finding a full orchestra and choir doing an impromptu performance in the middle of a public space.
Fiona Robyn of Writing Our Way Home has organized a blogsplash for today to share stories of small kindness and the impact they’ve had on their lives from people around the world. The blogsplash is being held in honor of Fiona’s book Small Kindnesses, which is available free on Kindle today.
Her novel is a gentle story of a widower who discovers that his late wife had kept secrets from him throughout their marriage. As he pursues the mystery of her secrets, he both gives and receives many small kindnesses that have an important impact on his life and on those around him.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ~Mary Oliver
I’ve always loved this quote because it’s taken me years to understand that the darkness in my own life is a gift. It often does not feel that way at the time, but it is a gift nevertheless. And recognizing it as such in the moment, even when I can’t see it, makes the darkness easier to bear.
“Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of countenance the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” ~Ecclesiastes 7:3-4
We were discussing Biblical Wisdom Literature today in class, which includes the book of Ecclesiastes. In general, this book conveys a rather disillusioned and pessimistic view of the meaning of life, or the lack thereof. It was obvious from the class discussion that many people find this book disturbing, and I have my moments when I’d agree.
I also have plenty of times when I’m grateful for its inclusion in the canon because I find it comforting.
I generally get a minimum of response to things I post on my personal Facebook timeline and on my Facebook business page. In fact, I’ve slowly posted less and less often on both places because it seems like few people are seeing or reading the things I post there. So I’ve been really surprised at the response that this gratitude practice is getting.
I had the opportunity to attend an entrepreneur event with a friend tonight where everyone paid $5 to be there, some local businesses provided food for dinner, three people got the chance to pitch their idea for a micro-grant, and we all voted to determine which of the three would take home the combined entry fees (a total of $410 this evening). This is the first one of this particular event here in town, but they are planning to make it a monthly thing.
All three ideas presented tonight were worthy of the money, but the one that received the most votes was a local trade school that is built entirely around the idea of barter. Teachers are community members willing to teach a skill, and they list the kinds of things that they are willing to take in barter—from produce, to yard work help, to help cleaning up after class, to art, to beer … whatever! Students sign up and attend and bring whatever it is that they are willing to barter for the skill that they learn. The micro-grant they received tonight is going to go toward buying a projector for the teachers to use and for basic supplies (like making copies of handouts).
“As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.” ~Terri Guillemets
I truly have so much in my life to be thankful for. The more I am paying attention to these things for which I am grateful, the more things I seem to find that merit gratitude. And the more I find, the more I think of gratitude throughout the day, which leads to noticing even more things for which to be grateful. It’s really a most lovely cycle.
As I continue making my gratitude lists each night, it’s a delight to see how often the “little” things in life are the things that spring to mind to be grateful for: the joy of watching new grass sprout where I’ve seeded, the extravagant colors of the fall leaves, the delight of a good cup of tea, a delicious meal, kind words from a co-worker, a snuggly cat, the satisfaction of having completed a dreaded task.
It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I need big things (like a winning lottery ticket) to make me happy when I’m actually surrounded every day by more than enough to wrap my world in joy, if I just take the time to notice. There are indeed so many things to be grateful for even in the toughest of days, and it is good to remind myself of this.