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What is a gift?

I’ve struggled with Christmas for many years. For that matter, I’ve struggled with gift-giving in general. I have no problem giving gifts. I thoroughly enjoy doing that. It’s the identification of the gift and the heart behind it with which I struggle.

Unfortunately, I’ve been with people who need gifts showered on them. On the surface, this is not such a bad thing. Yet, their emphasis on gifts becomes a judgment. They measure life and love by volume and price. They give lip service to “it’s the thought that counts” philosophy. Some of these people I’ve given so many gifts of my time, my assistance, my love, my energy, my commitment, and a host of other gifts which I deem of highest value. Often, the material gift stands as simply a physical reminder of the love and affection behind the gift.

This Christmas, for the first time in far too many years, I’ve been touched by something far more valuable than any physical totem. I’ve been moved to re-understand who I once was and aspire to be again from gifts given me over the course of my lifetime. More specifically, the gifts I’ve received for the past few months have taken a glorious toll on my sadness and despair.

The gifts have been simple. My car cleaned and vacuumed. Dishes are done when I walk in from work. My bathroom cleaned. Smiles. Hugs. Time shared.

The gestures of these gifts mean far more than the surface description. I’ve not opened one single gift as yet. There’s truly nothing I could receive which I don’t already possess in spades.

There are so many views on how to get stuff done in a household. So many rules laid down. So many punishments meted out over the course of a lifetime to force children to step in and take responsibility. Yet I’ve found that leading by example, loving and communicating, works far better. I’ve taken so much heat in my life for not ruling on high with a heavy, discipline-first mentality.

My eleven-year-old daughter delivers Christmas to me every day. Does she ALWAYS to dishes? No. Does she ALWAYS clean my bathroom and wash my car? No. Does she ALWAYS clean her room? No.

What she always does is show love. I wash dishes. She washes dishes. I wash clothes. She washes clothes. The measure of a person’s heart is not how many times and what schedule they use, the measure for me is that, in her case, she does these things because she has a heart and a desire to help. She has a heart and a desire to be responsible.

I could truly not care less if I do the dishes or her. What I cannot care for more is the fact that she joyously does dishes. Cleans house. Helps out. She does this out of her heart, not some regimented schedule laden with background threats.

I got home late from work Christmas Eve. The whole arrangement of tree and presents and furniture was rearranged into a beautiful scene. The barstools I’d purchased for a “family gift” were assembled (I didn’t know she could even do that! See them there in the first pic below?), and decorations like origami snowflakes were hung with pride and joy.

In case the thought is tickling your mind, this is who my daughter has been her entire life. She’s in a positive environment and she’s thriving.

And I am humbled.

My emotions overwhelm me. The sadness of life pushed away. The hollow feeling of overwhelming responsibility is lifted. I appreciate gift-giving again. This is how I’ve always desired to give. Too many times I’ve allowed myself to be trapped by other peoples’ rules and views on gifts. When I fix a faucet for someone and I know nothing about plumbing but I learn how and I do it from my heart, this is not about the faucet. It’s about me stepping into my heart and giving a true gift.

When my daughter gives even the tiniest of gifts, they cannot be wrapped. There is not enough wrapping paper in the world to enclose the thought and love behind her gift. THAT is what Christmas is all about. THAT is what I allowed to be stolen from me by people who run off of checklists and make gift-giving a chore or a measurement. A true gift, no matter the monetary value or timing, embodies all that is good and right in life. When the smallest of gestures and gifts touch your soul with love, truly the measurements of others mean nothing. The gentle touch on the heart becomes more powerful than all the hate, unhappiness, negativity, and all that ilk combined.

I love all my children. Each of them possesses a desire to give and to share themselves to lift others. In these days, when I need it most, I continue to be taught about life or at least reminded of something valuable I’d allowed to slip into darkness. I’ve never stopped giving from my heart, but I have listened to the harshness of judgment as to how and what I give. My gift this year is the gift of myself, handed gently to me on a daily basis by my children. I could receive no greater gift than the tears dropping on my desk and the love I feel in my heart. Yes, the love I have for them, but in a true world, my greatest gift is the love I receive from them.

It’s not about the physical gift. Never has been. It’s not about its value. Never has been. It’s not about the gifts frequency. Never has been. It’s not about anything measurable. Never has been.

A true gift is always about love.

Always has been.