Saturday, December 29, 2012
The things we surrender
I'm a big fan of de-cluttering. People who enter our house are often surprised by how sparse it is. There are no knick-knacks, few items on display, and just a few photographs hang alongside my husband's artwork. Toys are mostly neatly hidden away in bins or closets, and we regularly purge stuff so that it doesn't overwhelm our small house. One of my favorite times is the lead up to Christmas when I ask the kids to select which toys they are ready to get rid of to prepare for the new ones they will receive. Sometimes we share them with other children we know or donate them to Goodwill or to charities. Sometimes we sell them and use the money towards their new gifts. We also practice giving to others by filling shoeboxes for children in need, understanding that we have much to be grateful for and much to share with others.
But there are times when the giving is more difficult. Sometimes fear leads me to hang on to what I have, afraid that I won't have enough. I know this isn't the truth, but just a lie of scarcity that lingers from an insecure financial past and a consumeristic culture. There have been rare times when my personal (emotional) attachment to objects have almost prevented me from sharing with others. The pictures above show two examples. Two years ago, I was excited to purchase for Maryn an interactive stuffed animal, Abigail, from Hallmark that responds when you read her story. I had bought another character for Brady as he was just learning to read and I figured it would be a good incentive for him. I was even more excited for Maryn's reaction, though, as she loves all things pink and girly, and I thought this talking ballerina bunny with fit perfectly. I was wrong. She showed little interest in Abigail, and handed her back to me a couple days later, telling me I could return her. Nothing I said could persuade her, and I was crushed with surprise that I didn't know my girl as well as I had thought. I could finally relate to the intense investment my mother had in each Christmas, carefully gauging my reactions and looking for the excitement she had felt at picking out the "perfect" gift.
The second gift, the gray koala, was donated this year to Toys for Tots. It was actually a present from Brady to Maryn for her birthday. He was so excited to select a present for her on his own for the first time and wanted to go to Build-a-Bear. He carefully picked out each part with love, actually considering what she might like. I was impressed by his maturity as I knew that he wanted one of his own, but he stayed on task and said that maybe he could make one for himself another time. I was floored when he insisted on paying for it with his own money, which he had received and saved from his birthday the previous month. He could hardly wait to give it to her and his excitement was infectious. I don't even think he waited until her birthday, but had to show it to her right away. And she was underwhelmed. Again. My heart broke for Brady, but he took it in stride. I thought he would be happy as she told him he could have it and it lived on his bed temporarily. But I guess he learned the gift of giving and realized that it was not truly his. He was quick to surrender it in the pre-Christmas purge this year, and it gave my heart a twinge to put it in the donation bin.
There is a price that comes with giving sometimes, more than the value of the item. Sometimes we give a bit of our heart as we surrender a dream. Sometimes it's the realization that the kids are growing up and outgrowing the marks of childhood (the strollers and cute onesies), and sometimes it's understanding that we can't control who they are and what they like (for good and for bad). Often, it's all the hopes that went into each gift, wishing that it will show our love and bestow happiness on those close to us, and seeing that that, too, is unpredictable. And there's the thought that while we are casting off our "rejects" from our (over)abundance, they will be given to those who have so little. It seems so unfair. But time keeps turning and we hope that our gifts will touch hearts, not just with the material value, but with the love with which the gift is offered.
May I surrender in love, and through that gift, may others find hope. May we all keep dreaming new dreams...