Please join me in welcoming guest writer Christi Peterman for this week's Fresh Story! This is a moving piece about love and loss and what it truly means to receive a gift. I think you'll really like it.
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Each one should faithfully use whatever gift he has received to serve others.
Friday, my brother, our spouses, and I began the third “round” of disassembling mom’s house plate by plate, dish by dish, linen by linen, pillow by pillow, box by box, what-not by what-not. This followed her death on December 30, 2015. We knew what we would find along the way with regards “stuff”, but we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of what mom had acquired and neatly organized in closets and drawers over the years. Things we had never seen or used or shared or enjoyed with her. There were several sets of dishes with matches linens, a plethora of shoes we had not seen on her feet but maybe once or twice, decorations that were used at Christmas for a year and then stored or not used at all, gift items bought with the intent of one day giving, etc….Mom’s collection of stuff is not to be confused with your idea of hoarding; there was no clutter, nor were there piles. She liked her things, but she wanted them neatly put away.
We tediously unearthed the treasures and repeatedly found items that we or someone we knew had given her that had clearly never been opened or used! There was a decorative show shovel with a cute winter scene on it that still had the tag on it, which was given to her by a dear friend. The friend, who mom loved, clearly wanted this gift to bring joy to mom. I found the Hot Sox I bought her to keep her cold feet warm in the winter that she never took out of the package. In the back of a closet we discovered a wind chime made of “old looking” tin pans and bowls. I recall that I bought both of us one of these many years ago just knowing how she would enjoy hearing it when the wind blew. Mine had long deteriorated due to weather and wind. Hers was unopened and never enjoyed. Someone found a luscious feeling throw for the couch that I know she got from a grandchild for Christmas two years ago which was meant to remind her of him and keep her toasty as she watched her beloved ballgames on TV. It was never taken out of the box. There were also cookbooks (even though she loved cookbooks) that you could tell had never cracked the cover on to enjoy. My sister-in-law said you could always tell whether or not mom would use a gift she received; if she was not going to use it, she returned it neatly to its box and set it aside. She would, of course, say all the right things in appreciation, which gave the giver a false sense of joy.
This author’s point here is not to say that we should not give gifts. Speaking from this experience, I want to pose these questions; with what intent do we give gifts? What is the purpose of a gift? Should we all rethink gifting?
As I look out by window and see the wind chime I gave mom gently swinging in the breeze with its gently clanging sound, I am saddened by the loss of joy that this gift gave my mom. When I bought it for her, I envisioned this moment for her. I envisioned her looking at it and hearing it and thinking of me; a child who thought of her when she bought it. When the friend who gave her the decorative shovel saw that mom had obviously never used it, she had a momentary look of sadness on her face. It was also a look of “this didn’t bring the joy to Faye that I thought it would.” I was sad each time the “giver” found an unopened gift because they were robbed of knowing it brought joy. Possibly we should’ve not been looking for gifts for her (and others) outside of ourselves, but inside ourselves. Maybe those kinds of gifts would bring the greater joy.
To apply this experience to real life my thought is that the old saying, “the joy of giving is greater than the joy of getting” is true. The giver spends time and thought (for the most part) getting something for a person they think will bring joy, a smile, and happiness. The recipient, on the other hand, should be able to not only enjoy the gift, but all that it represents; love, friendship, warmth, caring, thoughtfulness. The question for us is this; would we be better off giving gifts of time, service, energy, and simplicity (Not every time, of course!)? These are things that require just as much thought, but are guaranteed to be opened and enjoyed!
To apply this to spiritual beliefs, all of us are given “gifts.” That is what makes us unique. Our mom’s gift was the gift of never meeting a stranger. She also had the gift of graciousness and being kind of others. She gave the gift of true friendship. As she got older and wiser all of these gifts intensified. She liked to give. Yes, she also gave material gifts and did so with great gusto. When it came to material gifts, she was such a “Santa Claus” all year. She listened to your everyday conversations and comments and knew your needs and wants. We loved it! But basically, she gave her love, hugs, long conversations, wit, humor, and graciousness. Those were her spiritual gifts.
As for what I have learned from the unearthing of mom’s material treasures; I will give a LOT more thought to any gifts I give. If I cannot come up with a gift that I KNOW I will never find in the back of someone’s closet unopened, I will give them a gift certificate for time, service, or a dedicated 30 days of prayer for them, or a homemade treat……something that will bring joy to me and to them and can’t be ignored!!!!
In the end, I will ponder the unopened gifts that we found at mom’s house. This writer is lead to ponder what “unopened gifts” are in my heart and my soul that need to be discovered which could truly impact those that I love? I can tell you this for sure; the gifts are DEFINITELY NOT HOT SOX AND WIND CHIMES!
With Peace and Love,
About the Author
I am a recently retired principal with a total of 32 years in education. My husband and I have four adult children between us and three grandchildren. My passions in life are reading, cross-stitching, baking, and the enjoyment of family and friends. Being an avid reader for as along as I can recall probably laid the foundation for my love of writing. The messages that authors convey on a sheet of paper have always fascinated me. For me personally, I enjoyed the fact that I could manipulate words to get my point across, send a message, persuade, please someone, or honor someone. Only recently have I written and shared personal thoughts and stories with others. I have been pleasantly surprised that readers have enjoyed what I have written. I hesitate to call myself a writer. Rather, I refer to myself as an "expressor of words."
Q: How long have you been writing?
For as long as I can remember.
Q: who/what are some of your favorite writers/books?
As a young person, I was addicted to the infamous Nancy Drew books! I could never get enough Nancy Drew! That fueled my passion for books by John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, and Dorothea Benton Frank.
Q: what do you like to write about?
I like to write about things that reflect real life experiences.
Q: As a writer, what inspires you?
Life. Plain and simple.
Q: What is the best writing advice that you've ever been given?
Write legibly; that never worked, so I am extremely thankful for fast typing skills!