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The Gift of Gratitude

Now that the holidays are over and the New Year is ready to be rung in, we are taking stock on how we did. So often the idea of “doing well” at Christmas, a birthday, or at any gift giving occasion has much to do, you might say even too much to do, with how many gifts were received. During this week between Christmas and New Years, we may be comparing what we had to unwrap with what we wanted to unwrap. How well did Santa treat us? How much of our wish list was fulfilled?


We all have wish lists. These are the things we wouldn’t think of getting for ourselves or we might not be able to get for ourselves. They aren’t necessities or they wouldn’t be “wish list” worthy. These are the extras in life, the things we would love to have, perhaps even the people we would love to hold, but life will not stop without them.


Though they may be special and far from everyday, it can be disappointing when you look at the pile of unwrapped presents and the one thing you wanted more than you could put into words isn’t there. More than it can be disappointing, it is disappointing. “What bad thing did I do to get on Santa’s Naughty List?” you may ask yourself. Actually that might be the healthy response. A rather tongue in cheek question to an expected observation. Having acknowledged your initial disappointment you can now shrug it off and get back to the work of living life rather than dreaming of wishes.


There is nothing wrong with wish lists. They give some people an incentive to work harder, aim higher, seek that promotion or risk that investment. For others, they may represent a reward for achieving a goal as specific as the goal itself. Still others might see their wish lists as celebrations to hold for meeting a certain milestone. All valid motivation for urging oneself on in life and all recognized as something special. Something wishful.


That may be an okay rationalization for those grand wished for items you did not receive but what about the everyday recognition we may be missing. Maybe it wasn’t a wish list item that wasn’t among the piles or packages not there but that there was no present at all for you, or a perfunctory at best offering, like the ugly tie for dad, drug store cologne for mom, or a gift card for grandma. These may be more disappointing than not finding a certificate for an all expense paid Caribbean vacation, or a pair of snow mobiles and the keys to a mountain lodge. Those grand wishes you really weren’t expecting. You perhaps were expecting, or at least hoping for (maybe even wishing for) something from family, friends, or a special someone. Not seeing those presents among the pile can result in a hole in our hearts.


Perhaps we can satisfy our desire to be remembered and treated to something special by fulfilling the wish with something else. Can we be satisfied with acknowledging “it’s the thought that counts”? Gifts do not have to be material things. Gifts of time and service, help you are when you are your busiest, hope when you were at your lowest. Is it good enough to know we have raised children who want to please us but may not know how, so they are left to simplistic choices from TV movies and seasonal advertising. Is it good enough to know we have surrounded ourselves with friends and loved ones who are always in our corners no matter how far they have to travel to get to our corner. If we can’t say thank you to those close to us for presenting to us a remarkable once in a lifetime gift, can we be satisfied by saying, “Thank you remembering to think of me,” a lifetime of remarkable, priceless gifts.


Never forget you can also fill some of the biggest voids by acknowledging yourself. Recognize the good you’ve done during the season - and all year long. Acknowledge how you have made a difference to others at home, at school, at work, with members of your extended family, and even among those with whom you have only a passing acquaintance. Thank yourself for being there for others, helping when you could, giving what you can, and for being the best you this year has seen!


Didn’t get everything on your wish list? That’s okay. Give yourself the best gift you can give by recognizing all you’ve done and will continue to do. Then don’t forget, thank yourself for it!



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