The Gift of Giving

Since the beginning of time, giving gifts has been an important part of human interaction. Gifts help to define our relationships and to strengthen bonds with family and friends. The list of occasions for gifts is long—birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, Valentine’s day, Mother’s/Father’s day, Bar Mitzvahs, Christmas, weddings…! Anxiety runs high—the “having to;” is it enough; will it be appreciated; and the pressure of reciprocity. There’s even a phenomenon called “gift fatigue.” We’ve come a long way from the time when the Romans exchanged gifts of evergreen branches and cakes to symbolize prosperity and sweetness.

The significance of giving a gift has been lost in a consumer-driven culture. The value of a gift extends beyond a gold box with a glittering bow. To give of oneself, when it’s least expected and without ties, is a true gift. The greater the personal cost to give, the greater the value of the gift. In some cultures, the prosperity in a tribe was measured not by how much a family had, but how much they gave away. Kahil Gibran said, “Generosity is giving more than you can.”

It’s in our nature to give. If we listen to our heart, we can feel the nudge to share—to give gifts like being fully present and listening or with kind words of encouragement or offering a helping hand to a stranger. What matters most is what Mother Teresa described as “the condition of our heart when we give.”

When we give generously we are enriched, and our spirit is replenished. It has been said that there is no distinction between the one who gives, the one who receives and the gift itself. Every day look for opportunities to give. Remember, every time you smile you give someone a rose, and if you smile with your eyes as well, you give them two more roses!

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