The hustle and bustle of the Holiday Season is upon us, and it is no new news that our culture and society focus much attention on the gift-giving aspect of Christmas. The stress and pressure of shopping and spending is, frankly, exhausting.  Somehow, somewhere, at some time, we moved away from simplicity.  We’ve forgotten that the greatest gifts of all lie within the very essence of who we are.

The gifts we each possess are easy to overlook.  It is difficult for us to see ourselves and think we have something worthwhile to offer.  We each, do indeed, have unique and special gifts that no one else in this world can duplicate.  There is only one You.  And You are needed to weave a masterpiece called humanity.   Our gifts do not need to be deemed grand or extravagant.  They do not need to be on the front page of Fortune 500, appear on the New York Times best-seller list or make headline news.  What if your gift is packing groceries? Shoveling snow? Walking dogs?  What about the gift of kindness…, the gift of being a good listener…, the gift of organization…, or even humor? These are all gifts that we can give to one another and are not only appreciated, but needed.  Being You is enough.  Sometimes more than enough!

Let me share a story…..

Just over 15 years ago, in May of 2001, I experienced a very traumatic, life-changing event. At full-term pregnancy, I delivered a stillborn baby.  The first woman to rush to my bedside at the hospital was Rose.  A lovely, gracious, and wise woman who supervised a large women’s group in which I participated.  She was intent on giving me 2 pieces of advice that day.  The first, ‘there is no greater loss than the loss of a child.’  True.  The 2nd,  ‘people will say stupid things.’  Also true. These simple words from Rose were a gift in itself and enabled me to maintain a high level of grace when hearing many failed attempts of sympathy,  She taught me that people are just trying to find some way to relate to what other people are going through, and because my situation was especially traumatic, people were also processing their own shock and understanding.

That same spring, just shortly before my due date, we hired an ordinary, down-to-earth, hardworking man to trim the hedges and bushes around our home. He wasn’t necessarily educated.  He wasn’t necessarily polished or eloquent.  And by the look of his rusty old pick-up truck, not necessarily ‘rich’. But he did a fantastic job trimming bushes at a fantastic price.  Last he saw, I was a very pregnant expectant mother.  Months passed and in the fall, he knocked on our front door to see if we needed our hedges cleaned up.  He quickly remembered we had been expecting a baby.  “Hey”, he exclaimed, “last time I was here you were getting ready to have a baby!  What did you have?  A boy or a girl?!”  Ugh – ‘here we go….’, I thought to myself as I prepared to peel back the band-aid on a still fresh wound. I gently replied, “We had a baby girl.  But she died.”  His face dropped.  He looked to the ground.  I could see that this simple man who was already short on words, quickly could find none.  He was shocked.  I could feel the rise of awkwardness.  After a few moments, he said “….Boy, I’ve had some tough times as well.  My back sure has been bothering me a lot lately, having all sorts of trouble,” and he reached to place his hand on his lower back.  Really?!  You’re comparing your sore back to the death of my child?!  But as quickly as I was offended, I heard the words of Rose…….”people will say stupid things”…..and grace took over.

I told him that I wasn’t sure if it was in the budget to have any work done and that I would check with my husband and let him know.  We said goodbye and I closed the door.  Moments later, I was walking through the house when something out the window caught my eye.  It was him. Trimming bushes! The nerve!! Did he not hear that I would let him know?!  Not only had he inadequately acknowledged the death of my baby girl, but had now taken it upon himself to do the work I had not approved!  I quickly scurried to the porch and loudly clarified that I had told him not to do any work that day!  After my frantic attempt to stop him, he looked up and said, “Oh, no, it’s OK, I’m just going to do it.  There’s no charge….”   I stood in awe, deeply touched, and I understood. This simple ordinary man, who had been gifted with the undesirable art of trimming bushes, gave me the greatest gift of all.  He did not have words to heal my broken heart.  He did not have the capacity to truly understand my pain.  But he gave all that he had, all that he could, through his gifted talent as a bush-trimmer and gave of himself in a pure expression of love and compassion.  That gesture, above any other gesture that has been extended to me, meant more to me than anything else anyone has ever done.  I do not remember his name.  We have long since moved away from the area.  He has no idea the impact that his simple offering made on me, and to this day, still cherish.  Do not underestimate the power you have by being Simply You. You and Your gifts are needed.

So as the pressure of the Holidays close in, pause, reflect, and take inventory of the gifts that you have within. Acknowledge them. Honor them.  Celebrate them.  Wrap them up with love and give them back to the world.