Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Holiday giving

Today's Dear Abby is a good one for holiday time. It's reminding me to stop feeling so stressed and to think outside myself a bit more.

I have to admit, this holiday season for some reason sort of overwhelmed me. Maybe it's all the balls I have in the air, but it just seemed to wipe me out. Each week since Thanksgiving, I've just been making it through to the weekend when I scramble to get everything done I meant to during the week. And then it starts all over again. Thank God for online shopping!

This morning too I was at a meeting and heard this sentence: "Remember you can have anything you want, but not everything." This person also said basically to forgive yourself for not getting everything done you wanted to for the holidays. Phew!

So last night I put my stressed self aside and went to see a friend's performance at a Christmas concert. He's been a part of this chorus for years, and each year I've missed their show because I was too busy or it was too hard to go. This year, though, he had a major solo that was slated to be over the top fabulous.

I had, as usual, a million reasons not to go. Tickets were expensive, we haven't even decorated the tree yet, parking in the city would be impossible, it was a school night, etc. But I found myself, with the kids, lined up in the very long will-call line at the concert hall to get our tickets. And of course it turned out to be one of the highlights of this holiday season. My friend's performance was stellar! I'm so glad I saw it, and he was so tickled we came.

Just wanted to share one part that brought tears to my eyes. They sang "Silent Night" with an American sign language interpreter, and the entire chorus signed the words with her. And then, they stopped singing, and repeated the song with just signing. The concert hall fell completely silent, fixated on all the hands moving in unison. Each movement had meaning, we could follow the words perfectly because we knew the song. I wondered if to a deaf person this would give the same feeling that hearing a choir gives to me. It was a transcendant experience, what a gift.

And I'm left thinking, it's the gifts we give that bring us the most good. My presence there, being present for my friend, gave me the greater gift. To be too busy to give leaves us cut off from the gifts that come in response. To give to those we always give to is nice; to broaden this to give to those who are new to us is expansive.

Later this week I'm participating in a Yankee Swap with a business group. I was going to just grab something here at home to bring, but now I think it will better to put some more thought into it. Not just for the one who will go home with my gift, but for me as well. The theme of the group is "Givers gain" -- and no truer words were ever said at Christmastime.


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