I celebrated a birthday this summer. Yippee!
I got presents. Hooray!
It was a lot of fun, and I appreciated my friends and family for their kindness and generosity. It’s always good to feel loved.
I enjoyed receiving gifts but for this blog, I’m focusing on a possibly overlooked aspect of gifts – the perspective of the giver. The giver receives as much, and sometimes more, from the exchange. Especially when we are able to give The Perfect Gift.
We all know what it’s like to discover and give the perfect gift. When the stars align and you remember a throwaway comment from your wife from six months earlier, and you find that original Wonder Woman lunchbox that reminds her of third grade and the best teacher she ever had and…
Suffice it to say, getting the perfect gift is a very rewarding experience.
Likewise, when you don’t find the perfect gift (sweaters, neckties and the “jelly of the month club” all qualify) and whatever you gave them is returned, you feel like you should have just gotten them a gift card. Few things are as disheartening as giving a gift that isn’t appreciated.
One of my favorite moments in Hollywood gift giving. Just indulge me.
The easiest and yet most appropriate illustration of an unappreciated gift is family time at Christmas or Chanukah.
I have three children and all of them are still enchanted with the joy and wonder of Christmas morning. They awake long before dawn to inspect their stockings. Before sunrise, my wife and I groggily drag ourselves out of bed to the rapturous sounds of their glee. Fortunately, most of the time they are overjoyed with gratitude. They play happily with their toys the rest of the day and sometimes, even for a few weeks.
On occasion, they receive a present that lights them up. A gift that so perfectly matches their passion and temperament, they ignore all other gifts. They become consumed with the gift and it becomes a permanent part of their life.
A great example of this was getting my son a bag of Bok Choy Boy plastic figures two years ago. He calls them “Alien Ninjas”, which I think is a much better name than Bok Choy Boy, but I digress. The bag cost $15, and was filled with inch high figures, such as the one below:
He loves these little guys and despite all the other presents, all the wonderful toys from his parents and grandparents, the Alien Ninjas were number one, and remain a big part of his playtime to this day. It may seem weird to you, but for my four-year-old (six-year-old now) son, this was the perfect gift!
It made me feel fantastic. My wife and I were thrilled that he was enjoying the gift we gave him.
On the other hand, there is nothing more disturbing, maddening and annoying as a child who is ungrateful for their gift. A prime example is found below:
If you didn’t watch the link (and you really should – if for no other reason than to feel better about your own kids), it’s a clip of a very ungrateful child who got clothes and wanted toys.
It’s easy to watch that and think (as the parent who posted it, apparently) “what a brat!”
Yet, I wonder how many of us responsible grown-ups go through life acting much the same way with God. He created us and He gave us gifts. He gave us abilities and specific talents and he wants nothing more than for us to use those gifts to bless the world and help others.
For purposes of discussion, imagine God as a cosmic shopper, hunting through store after store, even searching the web, to find the perfect gift for His beloved. (That’s you and me, in case the analogy isn’t clear)
He thinks it through. He knows us intimately. He understands everything about us. He is God, after all. And, He endows us with gifts. Specifically designed and directly deposited, He gave us remarkable and unique presents. One of a kind type of stuff.
I wonder how much of our time is spent really enjoying and developing our gifts? I wonder how much of our time is spent not just enjoying them, but reveling in our gifts?
How much of our time is spent being ungrateful because it wasn’t the gift we’d have given ourselves?
How much of our time is spent envying the gifts our brother or sister got? Ignoring our gift because it didn’t match our immature vision for life.
All the while, we have the perfect gifts. The ones God uniquely prepared for us. The ones the world needs us to use for the betterment of all.
May I encourage you today? Consider the bratty kid above the next time you’re feeling jealous or entitled or underwhelmed by your abilities. Remember your gifts are yours alone. No one else has them, and no one else can use them.
Remember what it feels like when someone fully appreciates and enjoys the gift you give. I like to think God would be equally exhilarated by us – if and when we revel in our gifts.