Christmas Gifts in a Seismic Economy

Outside my office, the world is gray and white. The snow has stopped falling, but is heaped almost knee-deep on the lawn. Each leaf still clinging to the native shrubs in our front yard mini-forest bears its own fluffy load and is tipped with the start of its own icicle. A solitary rufous-sided towhee flashes bright flanks as it hops past my ground-level window to scratch for bugs in the ivy under the deck. An undulating line of snow geese follows-the-leader across the dark sky beyond the drooping cedar.

I should be Christmas shopping, but we’re snowed in. I’m rereading some of this year’s Christmas letters and cards.

Each year I look forward to my dear friend Mary Armstrong’s Christmas masterpiece. No one better captures the essence of the season than she does. This year she talks about gift-giving in a “seismic economy.” She gave me permission to share part of her letter here:

“…a small sign…lettered with the message, ‘Kindness Matters’…hangs now in our kitchen, a gentle reminder of something beyond portfolio and asset value: the gift of kindness. Could our roller coaster economy, distressing as it surely is, contain a hidden lesson we may have forgotten? Perhaps beyond the mall, beyond the in-your-face glitze urging us to spend and spend some more, rests a galaxy of gifts to be rediscovered.

“This year especially, could I give the gift of listening? Real listening, without interruption, without time out for commercials, is the rarest of treasures. Could I give the gift of my presence, taking time to actually sit down with someone, hear them with focus, with eye contact, with sympathy and encouragement? Could I just once refrain from offering advice? Could I pick up the phone and simply ask how my friend is doing? Could I give an hour to help out at the food bank, or the homeless shelter, or the drive for warm jackets, or the soup kitchen, or the Church thrift shop, or push a coin into the alms kettle?

“This year, let us shop as the gold—or lack of it—in our wallets will dictate. But may we remember to shop also for that invisible gift wrapped in the beauty of kindness: the gift of myself, the gift of my time. Let us slow our pace, let us listen more, let us speak less, let us reach out to those next door, around the corner, at the other end of the phone, perhaps under the overpass, on a bench in the park, or behind bars.”

***For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11***

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