Reality Check: Recognizing Our Gifts

We are free to give gifts at any time of the year. However, whether because of social convention, family expectations, or faith-based convictions, gift-giving is more extensive at this time of year.
Some folks find the whole gift-giving process stressful. For one thing, there’s the reality that purchasing gifts can create financial strain. Another issue for many is a concern that if they don’t choose well—if the person who receives the gift doesn’t like it or feels slighted by it—then they might end up creating bad feelings in the relationship rather than enhancing it with joy and good will.
Of course, we can’t control how someone responds to what we give any more than we can control how someone responds to what we say. We can use our best judgment; we can approach gift-giving with positive intent, but ultimately, the choice of how one responds to a gift, a situation, or anything else rests with the individual.
So let’s consider the other side of the transaction—the receiving of gifts. Dr. Rick Hanson writes extensively on practices that can help one develop resilience, inner strength, and generally increase happiness.
It’s no surprise that among those practices is the suggestion to practice gratitude. What are we grateful for? How about gratitude for our gifts?
When we’ve been given a pretty gift bag with something delightful inside, we know we’ve received a gift. But some of our most precious and abundant gifts don’t come in a gift bag, and it may take a certain mindset to even recognize them as gifts at all.
So, what makes a gift a gift? What brings you a sense of wonder? What inspires your feelings of gratitude?
We each have filters through which we see the world. If I’m in a cranky mood, I may perceive even the kindest interaction as an irritant. Choose another day when I’m full of joy and sunshine, and I’ll perceive the same interaction quite differently.
If we choose to deliberately look at things through a lens of gratitude, we may be able to see a world that is full of wonders.
For example, there’s the natural world. It’s always a source of wonder when we look with truly open eyes at trees, birds, animals, even the insects and weeds have their beauty for which we can choose to be grateful.
There’s also the gift of any good relationship. Maybe we don’t have all the great relationships that we would like to have. And, few relationships are perfect. But whenever we have someone who genuinely cares for us, we have a gift.
We can also be grateful for past relationships. Not every relationship continues forever, and regardless of what has caused the separation, whether distance, illness, or even death, we can choose to remain grateful for the gift of having had a special, meaningful relationship in our lives.
Other gifts that we sometimes take for granted are the tremendous advances in technology. While I’m sure that I gripe about tech failings as much as anyone, when I look through a lens of gratitude, I’m reminded that it wasn’t always easy to buy exotic fruits for a reasonable price, to take a gazillion pictures without having to wait to see how they “turned out,” or even to pick up the phone to call my far-away friends.
Another gift that we might take for granted is the gift of someone’s time. It’s a gift when someone devotes their time to listen to us, to give us feedback, encouragement, support, or perspective. We might not always recognize it as a gift, especially if we are not hearing what we want to hear. But it’s a gift; possibly the most precious gift of all.
What gifts do you value?

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