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SALT LAKE CITY — More than what comes from a store are the gifts that truly come from our hearts. In the likeness of the Three Wise Men, perhaps this year it’s not too late to seek three gifts anyone can give and receive: peace, joy and love.
The gift of peace
The closer we move toward Christmas Day the higher the stress level can become. One gift can be easily given by a cheerful choice: We can respond with kindness. No matter the moment or the person, we can smile or speak a soft word or do a kind deed.
One day I stood in the grocery line, one that seemed to move extremely slow and get longer by the minute. The lady at the front required a good deal of time for some reason. Then I heard the lady standing right behind her say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got time.”
That response hit me. This woman truly wasn’t upset — she was relaxed and unharried. Was it possible this woman had nothing else to do? Not likely. But surely she felt the stress of the moment and helped to diffuse it. Such a kind response made me think about my own — I DO have time to be kind, I just don’t think I do. Sometimes waiting patiently for five more minutes can give a gift of peace.
To receive a gift of peace, we can capture “holy moments.” The first time our toddler saw a Christmas tree he stared at the twinkling lights and promptly laid down beneath it. That’s a holy moment we can capture for ourselves. Read holy writ or be still beneath the Christmas tree and bask in the good that is.
The gift of joy
So often joy comes in simple, spontaneous acts of service and meaningful gifts. For months a friend and I have talked of going to breakfast at our favorite place, but time and family life kept it an idea rather than a done deal. One night the doorbell rang and there she was. Despite it being the eve of leaving for a family Thanksgiving trip and once again no time for a serious chat, she handed me our favorite restaurant’s pumpkin bread. That she had remembered our conversations and desire to connect, and to share it in a symbolic way filled me with a tender joy.
Recently two friends shared with me how they had created “keeper gifts” for family members. One had found her grandmother’s recipe book, worn and happily used, and had reprinted it for family members. It included a loving tribute, old family photos and handmade wrapping paper. The other friend had made a homemade quilt for her mother who had just retired. Then gave it to her at a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of the entire extended family to celebrate their mother at Disneyland, her favorite place. The incredible experience was a year in the making. When we give of our time and selves, we feel and create true joy.
The gift of love
To give and receive love we need to open ourselves to it — without rigid expectation, but with soft hearts and open minds. One year I made thick leather wristbands for my sisters at Christmas. I had put my heart into them, knowing my socially involved teenage sisters would LOVE these Spartacus-like adornments. Their shocking response was something like, "Egads! What is THIS?"
I was crushed.
However, age and a bit of wisdom have proven that the expected response to loving gestures is not what matters, it’s most surely the intention. My desire was to love and the outcome didn’t make or break that experience for me. (Of course, first asking how another likes to be shown love is a good idea, but that’s another column ….)
To receive love means allowing others to serve or fill gaps for us. This can be hard. I recently celebrated a birthday and awoke with wonderful anticipation only to find three sick children. After texting my dear friends that I couldn’t make the breakfast they had planned for me, I received a phone call from them. “We’re coming to you!” they said. At first I said, No, that’s too much, it’s too far, thinking only of the inconvenience to them. But they happily ignored my concerns and created a deeply touching and needed morning of love and laughter.
Author Brenee Brown has said, “You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” When we open ourselves to others’ kindness, allowing them to show they care, we participate in the healthy cycle of loving.
This season, and in the midst of the Christmas countdown, enjoy giving and receiving three wise and simple gifts of peace, joy and love.
Connie Sokol is an author, speaker, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at www.conniesokol.com.