Unexpected Gifts: Giving From the Heart

                        Unexpected Gifts:  Giving From the Heart

                                                by Neal Lemery

            Putting aside the hubbub, the seemingly endless demands on us to be “in the holiday mode”, I find my purpose and comfort in the quiet of the winter, as I contemplate what are the best gifts to exchange.

            The birds quietly chatter their thanks as I fill their feeder. The rest of the yard sleeps, as a few leaves, still dressed in their fall colors, cling to the branches. These moments are gifts to my spirit, and are given freely, without expectation. 

            The chance encounters in life can offer the best experiences, the most rewarding gift giving of the season. 

            While on a welcome road trip last week, I stopped for lunch. While pouring my coffee, the waitress mentioned her struggle with her trembling hand.  I took the time to listen. I recently came across an article that talked about that condition and a new non-invasive and pain free treatment. In a few minutes, our phones connected and she had the link to the article and the contact for the competent, state of the art clinic that could ease her condition.

            “I didn’t know about this. And I so badly want to be able to paint and draw again,” she said. 

            She gave me a big smile as I left, her relief at finding a solution showing in her eyes, her gift to me.

            I’ve lost touch with a fellow guitar player.  While playing one of his favorite songs the other day, I decided he needed a gift. I’ve come across some unusual picks that suit my continuing journey to be a better guitar player.  I have a few extra picks, so I mailed them to him, with a note thanking him for his friendship over the years.

I’m sure the postal clerk wondered why I had a big smile as I mailed that package.

            Often, the best gifts to give are the gifts of listening and appreciation. There are so many opportunities to simply be present with someone, to listen with an open heart, and to suspend judgment and commentary. Most of us aren’t asking for advice; we simply want to be heard.

            “To be by their side,” a counselor friend told me the other day.  “It truly is the gift we can all give. All it takes is our time and being present with someone in need of a good ear.”

            We all have our story, but all too often, our story doesn’t get heard. That’s all too often the gift we need to receive, as well as to give.

            When we prepare for the holidays and wrap our presents, perhaps we should write a kind note to a friend, inviting them for a cup of coffee or a walk in a beautiful place.  Let us suspend our culture’s pressure to give material things. Instead, we can give the gift of ourselves and our open, loving hearts.

published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 12/16/2021

The Gift

What must it be like, to get a gift, for the first time in four years?


Four years in prison, after a childhood of hell, of being beaten and abused, and drunk and high, and then doing what someone did to you, to others, and then told by the cops that what you’d been taught was wrong, and you were going to prison.


And, then, for four years, no one in your family comes to see you, or write to you.  You are in classes to learn about what you did, and who you are, and how you might want to deal with all of that, and actually be healthy and strong, and become a real man.


Manhood, what a confusing thought.  


And, deep inside, you are a kind and sensitive soul, and spend your time being an artist, and creating some beauty in your world.  All that is new, to be good to yourself, and to be an artist, to create.  


How strange is that, after so many people have told you that you are a beast, and a pervert, and need to be locked up, and punished, for all the bad things you have done.


Yet, someone new in your life gives you a gift of a book, a book that honors art and creativity.  And the giver of the book writes you a letter inviting you to explore your creativity, your gifts of beauty, and reminds you that you are a good person, an artist, and a creator of wonderful and beautiful things in this world.  


No wonder you are confused.  No wonder you find it hard to make sense of this world, and who you are, and what is expected of you.