Friday, March 30, 2007

The Best Gift We Can Give

For my aunt’s 65th birthday her family gave her a huge surprise party !
My aunt is one of those rare people who has an endless supply of energy for doing good for others. Her gifts or gestures of thoughtfulness and practical caring ways were praised throughout the evening, and everyone had nothing but gratitude for the privilege of knowing her.
At one point during the celebration her daughter gave her a tribute. She went through a list of talents and gifts her mother had, and after each one she said regretfully, “I don’t have that talent!” We were all beginning to feel a little uncomfortable with her putting herself down, even though it was obviously not intended as self-pity, and we wanted to encourage her to look at her own strong points even if they weren’t the same as her mother’s..
When her well written speech was finished she was making her way back to her seat, when her father, a very humble man known for not being gifted in practical areas, went up to the mike and said, “Joanne, you know all those talents you didn’t get from your Mother? Well, you got them all from me!” His comment brought down the house !!

My uncle is a very successful business man but in practical matters he defers to others. He enjoys playing sports but does not excel. What I have always found so admirable in my uncle is his incredible attitude. Nothing delights him more than to see someone display a skill or talent or excel in some area of their life. He is the kind of cheer leader everyone would love to have in their corner. I have never heard him speak one word of envy , he is so busy admiring what someone else can do that it fails to occur to him to be envious. Even writing this I can hear his spontaneous laugh when someone says or does something clever. His face lights up and his sincere words of admiration are always heartwarming. He is appreciated , respected and loved by those who know him.

Is his attitude not one to emulate?

We live in such a competitive world . The rungs in the ladders of success are the backs of people who are used or passed over for personal gain or recognition.
We compare ourselves one against another and feel the other has the greater advantage. We are stagnated in our own little corners because we feel we cannot compete with someone else who does things so much better. We venture out only in areas where we feel we have some degree of competence. We play games , keep score and try to ‘win’ over someone else.

While competition can be good in that it spurs us on to try harder…. it can be discouraging when we feel we never ‘measure up’- if we constantly feel we are second rate or inferior to what we see as the established or expected norm.
I have yet to meet someone who did not have own talents or gifts or storehouse from which to bless or serve others, but even if you have not yet defined your area of expertise or believe that you are truly talent-free -- the very best gift is still yours to give. The gift of encouraging and praising others.
A little boy once came home from kindergarten very excited that he had been given a part to play in the school’s Christmas production. “And what is your part?” asked his mother. “I get to clap and cheer!” he answered proudly.
And truly is that not the best gift? To clap and cheer someone else’s accomplishments or efforts?
We all know how much we appreciate words of encouragement or a sincere pat on the back. Even in this, is it not ‘more blessed to give than to receive’? (Acts 20:35)
One thing I have learned – when I was young I believed that having ‘things’, achieving goals or accomplishments was what was important to my status in life, but now I know that it is not the ‘things’ you posses that determine the quality of your life but your relationships.

Scripture refers to the ‘church’ as the body of Christ – all believers together making up the whole. Can you imagine your hand being jealous of your foot ? Or your ear being jealous of your tongue?? It is an inconceivable concept, is it not?
How beautiful it would be if we could be that unconscious of comparison between one and another - that someone else’s accomplishments would cause us as much delight as though it were our own - because they truly are! …just as in your physical body, your hand rejoices in what your foot does and your eye over what your ear does.
II Cor. 10:12 says “For we dare not…. compare ourselves with some that…. measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.” And Paul goes on to say “For not he that commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends!!” Is that not the highest praise we could ever hope for? To have the praise of God?

I once knew an elderly lady, Mrs. Marshall, who started coming to our bible study group. None of us knew why she came. Her communication skills were either lacking or she did not have knowledge on many subjects. She would come to the evening meeting , find a comfortable chair and promptly fall asleep to awaken in time to have a cup of coffee before going home. She wanted to host the bible study in her home and eagerly invited us, but her home was sadly lacking in every way. It was dirty beyond what you would care to imagine , the cups she set out for coffee did not even look washed and some of us being served the worst ones would discretely slide our way over to the sink and on pretence of looking out the window hide the quick motion of pouring our coffee down the sink. Yet she came and we tried to find a way for her to fit in, but we were really at a loss to find it.
Then one evening our group leader suggested that it would be nice to remember the birthdays of the people in our group and would someone in the group want to take the responsibility of making sure that everyone was acknowledged on their special day. Mrs. Marshall immediately volunteered. All of us thought, "well, there goes that idea."
But to our surprise and delight, this woman had found something she could do and on our respective birthday , in the mail, came a beautiful birthday card obviously carefully chosen. She never forgot a single birthday even though we were a large group of about 18-24. Even years after the group disbanded we would still get our birthday card from Mrs. Marshall. She has since ended her earthly life but I'm sure she had no idea how much she blessed us with her faithfulness. I have rarely felt so loved and the others in the group shared my sentiment!

We are EVERY ONE equipped to please God - to love Him and to love others.
The Lord has made each of us unique and specially gifted to excel where we stand in relationship to others and the best gift - and the most appreciated - is to encourage and bless others.

1 comment:

Lovella said...

What I think is wonderful is how you encourage and bless people with your appreciation for even small gestures of kindness.

I agree with what you said about Uncle John, you really pegged him very well, I smiled when I thought of him and his lit up face. So accurate.

What would the body of Christ look like if we laid down our pride and competitive nature and put others above ourselves?