The Nine Gifts of Christmas


Sometimes the people we have to work with give us a hard time instead of their full cooperation. Our tasks become more difficult when the people we’re counting on give us a headache instead of a hand. Wouldn’t it be nice, though, if everyone we dealt with not only gave us a smile, but gave us a gift? Of course, we cannot control the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others, so the only gifts that we can be sure of are those that we give to others. Since the joy is in the giving, why not become a bearer of gifts? As Christmas approaches, let’s think about nine gifts we can offer to others, gifts that won’t cost us anything, yet are worth more than gold.

The first gift is compassion. It is more than mere caring or concern. It is love in action. For example, someone at work is stymied by a problem and you have a spare moment, so you immediately jump in, without being asked, and offer a helping hand. Other examples include offering our seat in the train or bus to another, holding the door open for a young mother with a baby carriage that is trying to enter a building. Yet another example is guiding an elderly or disabled person safely across a large street. Imagine the surprise and delight of others as we offer them these much needed gifts.

A moment’s reflection will reveal many other ways we can express our compassion. For instance, when someone else is trying to speak, we can offer the gifts of silence and a listening ear. Or when others are trying to express a dissenting opinion, we can agree with their right to have such a view, and use it to expand our own understanding, rather than try to convert them to our way of thinking.

The second gift is honesty. If it were a commodity exchanged in the Stock Market, its price would be on the rise because of its scarcity in the business world. We can make a big difference by helping to restore it. If we’re in sales, instead of trying to sell a bill of goods, we can sell service, support, and knowledge. That is, we can be a help, rather than a hindrance. If we’re asked about something we don’t know, we can be honest and admit our ignorance. And if it’s within our capacity to find the answer, we can make the effort to do so.

In our personal relationships, honesty means keeping our word, avoiding gossip, not exaggerating our accomplishments and recognizing the achievements of others. It also means being true to ourselves or practicing integrity. In other words, we align our actions with our values. For instance, don’t you think it’s strange that we sometimes hurt those we love? To do so is dishonest, for it is not how we feel in our heart. Don’t you agree that honesty is healing and dishonesty is hurtful?

The third gift is recognition. People are criticized more often than they are recognized. As a result, they are starving for recognition. Because sincere praise is as rare as diamonds, it has great value. Thomas Fuller wrote in 1732, “He injures a fair lady that beholds her not.” That is, he that doesn’t admire a beautiful woman insults her! After all, if she took the time and effort to look good, shouldn’t we acknowledge that?

When we offer praise, congratulations, and admiration, we are offering the gift of recognition. We are effectively saying, “The world is better off because you are here. You have value. I am honored to know you. You make my life more enjoyable.” How often do we express these sentiments to our family, friends, and coworkers? Isn’t true that if we are silent, we are both dishonest and unloving?

The fourth gift is interest. What do you imagine is the worst thing you can do to someone? It is not to hate them, for hate is sparked by jealousy or fear. Although highly negative, such feelings at least recognize them. No, the worst thing you can do to others is to ignore them. To deny their existence. To have no interest in them..

While the gift of recognition honors others for what they have DONE, the gift of interest honors others for what they ARE. And what are they? They are fellow travelers on the journey of life. They have as much right to be here, as much value to the world, and as interesting a story to relate as anyone else. All we have to do is give them an opportunity to tell their story. Each person is but one facet in the gem we call life. When we express interest in them, we give them the opportunity to sparkle. Be especially aware of those diamonds in the rough that you have at home and call your children.

The fifth gift is sincerity. When we act compassionately, we grow joyful. When we are honest, we are at peace with ourselves. When we shower others with recognition, they recognize us for our kindness. When we express interest in others by asking them to tell us about themselves, we discover the wonder and beauty of the world. So, each gift we offer has its own reward. But one of the greatest gifts of all is that of sincerity, for it is a beacon. When we act out of sincerity we act without desiring a reward. We offer each of the above gifts with no motive other than it is the right thing to do. Sincere people do not try to improve others, they just try to better themselves, but in doing so, they improve the world. Rather than trying to grab from life as much as they can, they try to add whatever they can.

The sixth gift is time. It is a priceless gift, for it is the only one that is a nonrenewable resource. In each of our lives, there is a limited allotment of time. Once used, it is gone forever, never to be replaced. Since time is the stuff our lives are made of, when we spend it with others, we are giving the greatest gift of all, ourselves. When we encourage others and cheer them on, we infuse their life with meaning; we make their life worthwhile. What greater gift can we offer?

The seventh gift is magnanimity. The word comes from Latin and means great soul. Here’s how the 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the term, “Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquility and firmness, which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness, and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.” In simpler terms, a magnanimous person is bighearted, generous, and forgiving. Such people act as a balm soothing the pain of those around them. Confucius (circa 551~478 BC) believed that magnanimity is also one of the five things that makes up a virtuous life (the other four are earnestness, sincerity, kindness, and gravity {solemnity, seriousness})

The eight gift is altruism, an unselfish concern for the welfare of others. Volunteers working at food banks and homeless shelters are examples of altruistic people. Altruism is something we all need to practice because we were born selfish. Yet, it should not be done at the expense of neglecting one’s own spouse, children and obligations. A major point to consider is what we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we do for others remains as our legacy.

The ninth gift is service. By service, I simply mean helping others. It is appropriate that this gift comes last because it is the bow that wraps around the other gifts, holding them together. This gift is the reason why we are here. We are here to serve one another. Here’s how Khalil Gibran (1883~1931) describes this gift, “I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” Noble as service is, here again balance is called for. After all, isn’t it better to teach someone how to fish than to make them dependent on your occasional handouts? So, the best way to help others is to help them become self-sufficient.

By the way, the nine gifts I have mentioned are easy to remember, for when we take the first letter of the gifts of Compassion, Honesty, Recognition, Interest, Sincerity, Time, Magnanimity, Altruism, and Service they spell out C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. Each gift is not meant to be thought of in the abstract, but is meant to be lived. Not in the future, but now. Their primary purpose isn’t to help those in desperate need thousands of miles away, but to lessen the fear and pain of those in our immediate circle of family, friends, acquaintances, and, yes, those strangers we meet each day as we go about our daily business. We have good reason to act, for we will never be what we ought to be until we help others become what they ought to be.

As you go along freely distributing your gifts to all you meet, you may occasionally run into an ungrateful, rude, or mean person, but don’t let that upset you. We need troublesome people, for how can we practice forgiveness unless we interact with people needing it? Finally, paraphrasing Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), let your life be an opener of doors for those who come after you.

Wishing you the blessings of the season and the nine gifts of Christmas,

© Chuck Gallozzi
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