Giving it away

I give gifts. Small trinkets, pieces of jewelry, books, purses and bags, vases, framed photos, whatever I see that I think one of my friends would really like. It’s like a game, my quest for just the right thing, that thing the recipient doesn’t even know she needs until I give it to her — shiny red knee-high boots for a friend who wants to be WonderWoman, a Jane Austen action figure for a writer friend of mine, the stained glass panel I made to match another friend’s nursery. I buy things because I love my friends, because it thrills me to find just the right something that will bring a smile, because I’m a shopper and an artist and when I see something really beautiful and unusual it makes my heart hurt. Someone I love should be able to have that. Sometimes I make things. In my quest for the unusual, perfect gift, sometimes I decide to take matters into my own hands. Do I think I would ever be able to find a shelf in just the right pattern to match the colorful baby nursery? No? Well, why not paint one?

Over the past few years, I’ve become more and more of a gift-giver. The less expected and the more personal, the better. But until recently, I did not see the importance of giving. As one after another friend commented about a special gift I gave them (which I only vaguely remembered giving), I saw that even when I’m not there, the presents provide a sense of presence. They serve as tangible reminders of the value of our friendship. They sit in places of honor, and become conversation starters. Even when someone moves away, or common circumstances change, the reminder of the connection we had remains. The gifts make my friends constantly aware that someone understands them and that they are loved. I know as well as anyone that friendship is not about objects, and love is not measured by gifts. Yet, an object can hold great significance.

Giving presents can be great fun, but sometimes there is not enough to go around. Things are finite. That’s the problem. If you have a whole box of chocolates, and give away half, you only have half left. If there’s only one hand-made journal, and you would love it as much as your friend who’s kept journals since she was 10, you have a dilemma.

What is so beautiful about God’s love is it is not limited. It is the one thing in this life that is not diminished by giving it away. When we reach out in love, we are more than filled back up. Both parties are blessed by the transaction. And the love we give seems to expand. The person to whom we extended our hands turns and helps the next person. So suddenly, instead of decreasing, God’s love multiplies exponentially. We never have to wonder if we’re going to run out. We never have to wonder how to get more. His love remains present for all to see. When someone gives it to us, we are reminded of how special we are, how valuable we are to Him. And so we take that precious gift, the thing that is just what we wanted, and we think, “This would be perfect for my friend/my boss/my neighbor/the waitress who just took my dinner order.” God has given us just what that person wants, just what she loves, just what will make him happy. So we willingly, happily, freely turn around and give it away.

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