I believe the greatest gifts are those that breathe.
Several years ago, our chocolate lab, Daffy, died of old age. It was devastating to all of us, but especially to my oldest daughter, CJ. At the time, Daffy was nine and CJ was 13. As a brand new teenager, CJ found in her chocolate brown friend a listening ear, a soft shoulder to cry on, a faithful running companion and, most importantly, an endless supply of unconditional love. Daffy died the early part of November when trees were bared and exposed and bitter winds stole through failing layers of autumn clothing. For the first time in her young life, CJ felt the cold intensity of being alone. My husband and I tried to reassure her that Daffy had lived a good life and console her with thoughts of getting a new puppy, but she was unmoved. It wasn't until CJ broke down one day and eloquently screamed at me that I understood why our weak propositions did nothing but make her feel worse.
She simply pointed out that Daffy:
- Listened to her every word
- Never judged
- Looked her in the eye
- Was always available
- Never offered advice
Too often, reaching out to others at Christmas can look like writing a check, saying a silent prayer, or entertaining good intentions. Sadly, the recipients of these "gifts" usually continue to experience intense loneliness. It could be that the check is a stinging reminder that the giver is living a good life, that the silent prayers don't warm the ears of the wounded, or that good intentions usually pave the road to … . Well, you get the point.
This month, organize your small group to give gifts that breathe. Have each group member identify one person in his or her life to whom they will give. Collectively, brainstorm a list of possible gifts that encourage listening and emotional availability. For example:
- Meeting for coffee or lunch
- Dinner in group member's home
- Driving around town to look at Christmas lights
- Christmas shopping
- Taking a walk
Write down the name of the person each member intends to gift and the gift he or she has decided to give. Make a commitment to pray for one another and the gift recipients. Consider inviting them to your group's Christmas party. Challenge each member to continue gifting his or her person into the New Year.