Sharing the 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 appreciated 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.

What others have to say about compassion:

• The dew of compassion is a tear. Lord Byron

• Compassion will cure more sins than condemnation. Willard Beecher

• Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves. Pema Chodron

• Can I see another's woe, and not be in sorrow too? Can I see another's grief, and not   seek for kind relief? William Blake

• Out of compassion I destroy the darkness of their ignorance. From within them I light the lamp of wisdom and dispel all darkness from their lives. Bhagavad Gita

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff

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?

What others have to say about honesty:

• Just be honest with yourself. That opens the door. Vernon Howard

• Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom. Thomas Jefferson

• Without adversity a person hardly knows whether they are honest or not. Henry Fielding

• Prefer a loss to dishonest gain; the one brings pain at the moment, the other for all time. Chilo

• People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty. Richard J. Needham

Radical Honesty: How to Transform Your Life by Telling the Truth by Brad Blanton

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely

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.

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 it true that if we are silent, we are both dishonest and unloving?

What others have to say about recognition:

Don't work for recognition, but do work worthy of recognition. H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Don't worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition. Abraham Lincoln

There are two things people want more than sex and money... recognition and praise. Mary Kay Ash

Treasure each other in the recognition that we do not know how long we shall have each other. Joshua L. Liebman

What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise although the philosophers generally call it recognition!William James

"Gimme a Hug": How Small Acts of Recognition Deliver Big Results and Create a Culture of Success by George Kouri

Before I am: (The Direct Recognition of Our Original Self), Second Edition by Mooji

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 others. 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.

What others have to say about interest:

• Those who are at war with others are not at peace with themselves. William Hazlitt

• There are no uninteresting things, there are only uninterested people. Gilbert K. Chesterton  • A man's interest in the world is only an overflow from his interest in himself. George Bernard Shaw  • Taking an interest in what others are thinking and doing is often a much more powerful form of encouragement than praise. (Robert Martin) • Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself. Henry Miller

The Heart Is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out by Ogyen Trinley Dorje

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

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 life. 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.

What others say about sincerity:

• Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue. Confucius

• Sincerity makes the very least person to be of more value than the most talented hypocrite. Charles Haddon Spurgeon

• To be sincere means to be the same person when one is with oneself; that is to say, alone — but that is all it means. Paul Valery

• We are very apt to measure ourselves by our aspiration instead of our performance. But in truth the conduct of our lives is the only proof of the sincerity of our hearts. (Author Unknown)

• Sincerity is like traveling on a plain, beaten road, which commonly brings a man sooner to his journey's end than by-ways, in which men often lose themselves. John Tillotson

Getting Real: Ten Truth Skills You Need to Live an Authentic Life by Ph.D. Susan Campbell

The Authentic Life: Zen Wisdom for Living Free from Complacency and Fear

by Ezra Bayda

The sixth gift is time. It is a priceless gift, for it is the only one that is a non-renewable 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?

What others say about time:

• Time stays long enough for those who use it. Leonardo da Vinci

• Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them. Dion Boucicault

• Time has no meaning in itself unless we choose to give it significance. Leo Buscaglia

• I recommend you to take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves. Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield

• A grindstone that had not grit in it, how long would it take to sharpen an ax? And affairs that had not grit in them, how long would they take to make a man? Henry Ward Beecher

A Brief History of the Philosophy of Timeby Adrian Bardon

The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life

by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd Ph.D.

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 believed that magnanimity is also one of the five qualities that makes up a virtuous life (the other four are earnestness, sincerity, kindness, and gravity {solemnity, seriousness})

What others say about magnanimity:

• Let us bear with magnanimity whatever it is needful for us to bear. Seneca

• In War: Resolution. In Defeat: Defiance. In Victory: Magnanimity. In Peace: Goodwill.

Winston Churchill  • Five things constitute perfect virtue: gravity, magnanimity, earnestness, sincerity, kindness. Confucius  • The best loved by God are those that are rich, yet have the humility of the poor, and those that are poor and have the magnanimity of the rich. Saadi  • What makes saintliness in my view, as distinguished from ordinary goodness, is a certain quality of magnanimity and greatness of soul that brings life within the circle of the heroic. Harriet Beecher Stowe

Big Hearted People: Make a Difference by Living Simply, Giving Freely and Loving Deeply by Randy J Schum  (Author)

Your Life Isn't for You: A Selfish Person's Guide to Being Selfless

by Seth Adam Smith

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 it is aligned with our true nature. Although we may have grown jaded over the years,we were born as loving beings. Yet, altruism should not be done at the expense of neglecting one’s own spouse, children and obligations. That is, charity begins at home. A major point to consider is what we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we do for others remains as our legacy.

 What others say about altruism:

• Altruism is innate, but it's not instinctual. Everybody's wired for it, but a switch has to be flipped. David Rakoff

• Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men. Mohandas K. Gandhi

• Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. Martin Luther King, Jr.

• What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. Albert Pike

• Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so. Robert Green Ingersoll

Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along

by Stefan Klein

The Brighter Side Of Human Nature: Altruism And Empathy In Everyday Life

by Alfie Kohn

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 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 Servicethey 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
were meant to be.

What others say about service:

• The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Mahatma Gandhi

• Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy. (Mahatma Gandhi)

• To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. Douglas Adams

• It is only in the giving of oneself to others that we truly live. Ethel Percy Andrus

• In the time we have it is surely our duty to do all the good we can to all the people we can in all the ways we can. William Barclay

The Greatness Principle: Finding Significance and Joy by Serving Others

by Nelson Searcy

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard

As you go along freely distributing your nine gifts of Christmas 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, 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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