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  • Marilyn Young

Small Gifts

Today, I am being prompted to send you some thoughts about “small gifts”. Small gifts that we give and those we receive. What do I mean by small gifts you might ask? Am I referring to presents, like birthday presents for example? Actually, I am referring to so much more than a physical object in fancy wrapping paper (or in my case, a gift bag, because they are so much easier!)

Let’s start with the most common definition of a gift – “something voluntarily transferred from one person to another without compensation” (Miriam-Webster dictionary). That definition

definitely includes the presents given and received on special occasions. But I am thinking more of the gifts we give and receive every day. Some are easy to recognize but others we may not

consider a gift or even be aware of. Those easily recognized include things like a creative craft proudly presented to you by a sweet child, a surprise beverage dropped off by a friend or co-worker, flowers from your partner, or an offer to pay for a meal you have enjoyed out with a friend. Less obvious are the nonmaterial gifts, gifts where the interaction with another is the gift itself. For example, a hug from a friend, a smile from a stranger, a compliment from a teacher, or your walk shovelled by a neighbour on the coldest, snowiest day in winter. Some gifts may be bestowed on us without our awareness – for example, a prayer for our healing.

Many people also refer to these gifts as “random acts of kindness”. In fact, that may be a better label because it highlights the emotion attached to the act of giving. As with any human interaction, that emotion is what is so important. The “transfer” involves positive emotion for the giver and the receiver. The list of those positive emotions can include love, joy, happiness, pride, serenity, hope, awe, relief, delight, enthusiasm to name a few. For example, my heart overflows with love for my beautiful grandchildren when they proudly present me with their drawings to be displayed on the

fridge. However, someone else randomly finding the drawings may not consider the sixteen pages of repetitive circles a gift because they did not experience the pride and love with which it was given. Have you been the beneficiary or bestower of a random act of kindness lately? What was the emotion you experienced?

What we consider a gift may also be impacted by our social background and belief systems. This week, a young woman from France who is staying with us, told me about a surprising encounter she had. On walking back to our place after disembarking from public transit, she was approached by a fellow who appeared to fit the stereotype of someone living on the street. She was surprised, but being new to Canada, she was not yet too wary of his approach. What she told me next made my heart melt. He approached her with, “Hey girl, I just want to tell you, God bless you.” She took his comment at face value and responded in the same fashion, “God bless you too!” He then happily continued on his way and the smile on her face as she recounted the story, showed me the positive impact her had on her. Had she had a belief system that labelled all people who appeared homeless as dangerous or interpreted his comment as a prelude to asking for money, she may have avoided him and missed that small gift of positive words. Can you reflect on any situation where your beliefs may have caused you to miss the opportunity to give or receive a small gift?

Our personal perspectives as well as the context within which the “transfer” occurs can also impact whether something is truly a gift. What the giver considers a gift, the receiver may not. Again, the emotion connected to the transfer is what is important. Someone may bring flowers to a friend in hospital only to have them turned away because the receiver is allergic to them and angry that the giver “did not know better”. The giver in return may feel hurt or guilty. Does that scenario sound

familiar? Can you identify with the negative emotions connected to the situation? How can the scenario be turned into a positive? Is it really true that “it’s the thought that counts”? Does that phrase make everything feel better or is it only a place to start? Would it help if we take it further by looking at what was the initial emotion attached to the thought of giving the gift? In the example above, what if the receiver paused to acknowledge that the giver didn’t know (or forgot) about the allergy and only cared about the person and wanted the flowers to brighten the receiver’s day? Would that different perspective change the emotion for the receiver and make the receipt of the gift positive? Would it benefit the receiver to pause and ask about the emotion attached to the gift or for the giver to explain that emotion when met with a negative response? Can you think of any time when you have received a gift where checking out the feelings attached to it could have changed a negative situation into a positive one?

As the amazing human beings that we are, we have the capacity to increase the love and positivity in the world around us. The exchange of small gifts can have an immediate and a long lasting effect on the individuals directly involved as well as a further reaching ripple effect. A recent

incident gave me the opportunity to ponder this. This week I took my mother out for lunch on her eighty nineth birthday. She was excited to go and enjoyed her food, but nothing can compare to the sheer delight she experienced by an exchange she had with our server. It went like this: After my mom declined a “birthday desert” I offered to order her (she was too full and couldn’t eat any more), I paid the bill. The server cheerfully accepted our payment then wished us a good afternoon. A few minutes later, as mom and I sat chatting, the server reappeared. Touching my mom on the shoulder, she nervously offered, “I would like to buy you a birthday desert to take home – your choice of the four deserts that we have.” My mom was surprised at first then hugely flattered. Laughing and smiling her appreciation, she agreed to take home a piece of New York cheesecake. The server was equally pleased and dashed around the corner to reappear instantly with the boxed up cake. We left shortly after, exchanging more pleasant goodbyes as we went out the door. My mom talked about how impressed she was by the server’s thoughtfulness all the way home and when she arrived at her place ten minutes later, she was still beaming. I am sure by the end of the day she had recounted the story several times to members of my family and her neighbours, reliving the pleasure of receiving that gift (as well enjoying the cheesecake!) The server was also very obviously happy to have given that small gift to my mom. She was beaming as well, as she busily cleaned tables when we left. Thinking about her today, I wonder if there was perhaps a residual ripple effect for her when she went home - perhaps an extra hug from a child or partner while she recounted the story. As for me, observing the interaction brought a smile to my face and the “warm fuzzies”. It was a positive experience all around.

So, I am hoping you will have an opportunity to reflect on the “small gifts” in your life. Perhaps tonight, you might journal or voice record about some of the following questions:

1. What small gifts have you received today? This week?

2. Have you had the opportunity or desire to give any small gifts recently?

3. Are there any small gifts you may not have initially thought of as gifts?

4. How do you feel about the small gifts you received? How have they impacted your day? What emotion was attached to them?

5. How were the small gifts that you gave, received?

6. What has been the actual or potential ripple effect of the gift transfer?

Once you have reflected on the questions, pause to hold the positive emotion connected to that small gift transfer in your heart. Really feel it and quietly revel in it for several moments. Express gratitude for all the small gifts that have touched your life that day. Then, tuck the memory of the experience away. But, have it ready to access along with its positive feelings any time you are having a tough day or feel the “weight of the world” come crashing down on you. You will be amazed at how reliving that feeling can make you smile and lighten your heart.

There is another universal gift that the small gifts exist within. We often hear that “Life itself is a gift” from God, from Source, from the Universe or from whatever higher power is in the realm of your

belief system. As with many small gifts, some take this greatest gift for granted. Days, months, and even years can pass without pausing to acknowledge that gift along with its precious moments and great lessons. Many don’t really think about this gift until faced with the threat of losing it. In the business of our daily lives and the chaos of our world today, it may seem difficult to feel anything positive about life; to see it as a gift. The whirlwind of daily stresses related to finances, health, relationships, politics all amplified by the media and others around us, tend to dominate our lives. But there is HOPE! We can break that cycle. We can honour the gift of life daily by starting to focus on the positive moments, the small gifts that it gives us. We can also help others do the same. The more of us who do this and share our experiences, the quicker the whirlwind of stress will dissipate.

So, as you reflect on your small gifts with the exercise above, you may begin to think about how you receive the gift of life, its special moments, its lessons. Do you feel love and joy in your life? How do you enhance that gift for yourself and others? What moments do you cherish? Consider taking your small gifts inventory and then ask yourself “What small gifts can I pay forward?”

In closing, I would like to offer a small gift to you: I am sending you love and hugs because I honestly believe in my heart that each and every one of you are amazing, beautiful souls

who are on this planet at this time for a reason. You have the ability to enhance the love and positivity in our world to build a beautiful future. Thank you for being you!

Keep smiling.


Intuitive Counselling and Angel Card Readings

If you have the need for some insightful assistance to one of life’s challenges or would just like to give yourself a “small gift”, I am offering intuitive counselling and angel card readings online or in person (in Calgary).

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