Have you made your gift list and checked it twice? Gifts of great value do not have to come in little blue velvet boxes. You might want to gift your loved one with a Modigliani nude painting – sold for 157 million dollars last spring. If you don’t like the artist’s elongated style you may prefer a Claude Monet that sold for 111 million this past May. I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliche’ ” it’s not the gift but the gesture. I concur with that sentiment. Gift giving is a good thing and nothing new. When Jesus was born in a stable, the Three Wise Men (Magi) traveled a great distance to welcome His birth with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, considered precious gifts during that era.

We have all been the recipient of many gifts that we accept and use to our enjoyment or advantage, but often take for granted. Yet they require no exchange of money, endless shopping or gift wrapping. The GIFT OF LOVE, for example, is mo doubt the greatest gift we can ever receive or give, but even a gift of love can cause pain as well as joy. The Bible speaks of Faith, Hope and Charity “but the greater of these is love”. Let’s consider more of the often under-appreciated or unacknowledged gifts:

GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP – cherished probably more than any other, and so necessary. GIFT OF THE SENSES of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. What if we couldn’t see the beauty of nature, read books, view television or movies, or look into the eyes of a loved one? What if we couldn’t see a look of unbridled joy on the face of children on seeing their first puppy, or touch and feel the softness of a baby’s skin, or taste bread pudding with whiskey sauce, or an ice cream bar on a hot day? What if we couldn’t hear the beautiful music of Brahms, Chopin or Mozart, or an evening of Dixieland Jazz? Without the GIFT OF LANGUAGE, we would have no connection to the great writers of history – poets, authors, great speakers like Churchill – no Thoreau, Kahlil Gibran, or Mark Twain etc. – the list is endless. The broad scope of CREATIVITY in all its forms is a gift to the world as well as to all of us individually.

Less recognized are the GIFTS OF IMAGINATION, SELECTIVITY and THOUGHT, OR THE gifts of DISCERNMENT and REASONING. Would that we could give to those in high offices in business and government – gifts that are equally important in our private lives.

What would we do without the GIFT OF LAUGHTER? It would be a sad sorrowful world for sure. Laughter is supposed to be good for the soul as well as the liver, and science has suggested we seek out more laughter to extend our lifespan. Never have we needed laughter more to rise above the nonsense and triviality we are exposed to almost daily, as well as the natural disasters tragedies and loss of loved ones that leave us with broken hearts.

The GIFT OF MEMORY perhaps should be at the top of this list. Losing one’s memory is probably mankind’s greatest fear due to the terrible disease of Alzheimers’s. A lady recently asked, “What if I forget who God is? Would I still go to Heaven?” As we age, we often need our memories to keep us sane, to look back on past accomplishments and remember loved ones who helped make our life complete.

Particularly when we are the recipient, we must not forget the GIFT OF FORGIVENESS and ACCEPTANCE. The GIFT OF COMPASSION opens our heart and makes us kinder human beings and the results expand to embrace and hopefully bring joy to others.

The GIFT OF LIFE ITSELF is not just about the beginning and the end but all the moments in between that make us who we are, that make us stronger and more accomplished, and able to give back even in some small way that most precious of gifts. Even illness can be a gift when it enables us to learn the real meaning of live and to appreciate the health we have been given – and once recovered reach out to be of help to others.

These notes are my gift to all of you who read my essays, to think about and meditate upon wherever you are on your life’s journey. This year, let’s all concentrate not only on the perfect gifts on our lists, but on the many gifts that last a lifetime.

Happy season of giving and receiving to all.