After the hustle and bustle and giving of the holidays, January can seem like a bleak month.
The presents are all unwrapped, some already exchanged. New Year’s Resolutions have been dutifully made with subsequent feelings of failure to come. April 15 is closer than it was last month, and the credit card bills will soon arrive.
Yep. It’s bleak.
But it doesn’t have to be. The same feelings of joy that stem from giving and that we experienced short weeks ago, don’t have to end because the holiday hype has. And money isn’t a factor: we can give five incredible gifts year round without having to spend a cent. As an added bonus, these gifts don’t even require time. Just effort.
And because gifts are never obligatory, we don’t HAVE to do these five acts of grace. In the spirit of experimentation, however, it’s worth considering giving them a try. So . . . let’s brighten up January (and February, and beyond) by giving five things we can’t tuck inside a box:
1) Give the benefit of the doubt. We all know someone who’s chronically late, or never pays their portion of the bill, or makes promises they don’t keep. And they are irritating. But the next time irritating happens, instead of thinking, “They did it again! I’m so TIRED of them,” we have the option to gently muse, “Hmm. Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about. Maybe there are hidden circumstances in their life or their background (of course there are!) that are a factor in why they do this.”
Obviously, we don’t want to be walked over (in our society, that’s as bad as looking uncool), but we also don’t want to box people in. It’s always worth remembering that, if we have nine pieces of information out of 10 (and we usually don’t have that many), we’re missing the whole story.
2) Give it a miss. The next time we’re in a conversation, and we think up something incredibly witty that plays upon what someone just said, let’s skip saying it. Just this once, we can opt to not to be funny or amusing or witty. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being funny or amusing or witty, but — more times than we like to think — humor is at the expense of someone else. It’s not that we’ll never ever ever in our whole life make a joke again. Just this one time.
Listening Is a Gift
3) Give an ear. Genuinely listening to another person is incredibly difficult. We frequently want to add our own thoughts, give advice, or persuade them to our way of thinking. The first element is part of making conversation, the second is worth providing only when asked for, the third can easily be dispensed with. Cultivating the ability to listen is a skill that requires daily practice.
4) Pass it on. (Yes, this is a deliberate decision to not start the sentence with “Give.” Why be predictable all the time?) All of us have items in our home that we have received good use from, but no longer need. It’s tempting to think, “This is in great shape: I could sell it for half the new price and make a little fun money.” Who can’t use a little more fun money? But then again, there are people who could really use the item we no longer need, but don’t have the money — fun or not — to buy it. Try this: ask God (or, if you’re not on speaking terms with Him, the general universe), “Do you know anyone who could use this?” and see what happens.
When We Give, We Receive Beauty
5) Give it a try. We are well trained to put ourselves, and our efforts, down. Our feet are too big, our dreams outlandish, our finances meager, our skills insufficient, our personality the wrong type, to make a difference. Bosh. If you’re used to analyzing your way through everything, ensuring that it is sensible, scientific, reasonable, or profitable enough to work, let your heart speak over your brain now and then and see what it says.
Yes, one small act of kindness makes a difference: one smile, one word of encouragement, one can of soup to the food bank, one biting back a retort, one package of toilet paper to the homeless shelter, one dollar, one letter, one hour, one idea.
The best thing about any one of these five gifts of grace is that, not only do they make a difference in the world around us, the make a change in us ourselves. And that’s a gift worth treasuring.
The Annual Canned Food Drive is the Art Event through January 31, 2020 at Wenaha Gallery. For every canned food item brought into the gallery through January 31, the giver receives $2 off their next custom framing order, up to 20% off total. All proceeds benefit the Dayton Community Food Bank.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.