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day 82: little m

April 24, 2011

Over the course of my 82 day long “a gift a day” journey, I’ve experienced giving-related confusion, discomfort, and reluctance.

For example, early in my project I learned that a friend’s daughter was experiencing some health problems that required her to increase her sodium intake.  I shrugged my shoulders (sweet!  easy gift idea!), went to the grocery store, and loaded up my cart with pita chips, salted nuts, and trail mix, ready to leave a care package on my friend’s doorstep.  Halfway to her house, I froze.  My friend, I knew, was out of town on a business trip.  I didn’t know her husband at all.  I’d only met her daughter once.  “What if I’m caught depositing a Trader Joe’s bag full of sodium-laden snack foods on their doorstep?  What if someone sees me, thinks I’m an intruder, and calls the police?  How will I explain myself?”  I wondered.  Trapped in my own absurd catastrophic thinking, I abandoned the high-salt gift and opted that day for something less, um, risky instead.

On more than one occasion over the past 82 days, I’ve been reluctant to give a gift that was conceived by someone else.  When a friend recently had surgery, my husband had the idea of paying for her to have her house cleaned a few times while she recovered.  He helpfully suggested that I organize the gift and count it within my “a gift a day” project, but I was uncomfortable doing so.  Ultimately, Steve took charge of setting up the housecleaning, and our friend received her gift gratefully.  It just didn’t seem fair to claim another’s good idea as my gift.  Despite my best efforts at simplicity, I guess I have created arbitrary rules for my experiment.

Over and over, I am astonished by how good giving feels when I am divorced from expectation.  When I refuse to  imagine others’ reactions to my gifts (“Why on earth would that strange woman drop off a bag of snacks on our doorstep?  Is she totally insane?”), I dwell in authenticity.  When I allow myself to give intuitively and without judgment, I’m able to fully experience this project.  This has been a critical lesson to me.

Day 82’s gift, though, wasn’t fraught with conflict.  On Day 82, I knew exactly what to give my almost-five-year-old niece, Little M (that’s right — we’ve reached the next installment of the “Gifts to My Fifteen Darling Nieces” series).  Even though it will be much too big for her for a very long time, something about this favorite ring reminds me of her.

Not sure why this photo turned out better than most, but so be it.

Turquoise always makes me think of Colorado, and last summer we spent a week with Little M and her family in Breckenridge.  We shared mountain hikes and evening fires, and it was a pleasure to get to know the gentle person Little M has become.  Under her parents’ guidance, she is blithe and contented, a sweet pixie.  Maybe the robin’s egg blue of the stone reminds me of her bright voice.

For years, I wore this on the ring finger of my right hand, enjoying its cheerful wink of blue.  I hope Little M likes this ring as much as I did, but I mostly just want her to know it reminds me of her.

Today is Easter.  Whether or not you celebrate it, I hope you find comfort in the possibilities of renewal.  I hope you find joy in God’s example of eternal and unmitigated love;  love without expectation.  Thank you, always, for showing up.

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