Better than bigger is the gift of the heart.
As little children size up their stack of birthday or holiday gifts, bigger and more always seem better. I’ll never forget the sobs that came from a little niece of mine one Christmas morning when she finished unwrapping the two gifts my husband and I had given her, only to see that her sister had an extra package from us to open. She felt cheated, even though we had carefully spent equal amounts of money on them both.
As adults, we may still pull out the mental measuring stick when it comes time to open our gifts. Yet take a moment and think about the times, as a child or adult, when you felt most happy, joyful, or at peace. Were those moments really defined by how much money someone spent on you? Or was it the time and attention you received or the intimacy and connection you experienced that made you feel exuberant?
The best gifts aren’t necessarily the biggest and most expensive ones. As the renowned Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran wisely observed, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Do you have an experience you can bring to mind to remind yourself of that truth? I do.
One summer day, not long after my husband and I had moved into a new home, my almost five-year-old neighbor Sophie peeked through the bushes separating her backyard from mine and introduced herself. After she and I had exchanged some important facts about each other, like how old she and her sister were and the names of my kitties, she suddenly asked, “What’s your favorite color?” “Well, I like yellow,” I replied. In an instant, she was off, disappearing around the side of her house and calling behind her shoulder, “Stay right there, stay right there!” When she returned, she came bearing gifts. “Here’s a flower from our garden,” she announced, “a yellow flower.” With a smile big enough for the both of us, she stretched her arm toward me. She was carefully holding between her fingers a perfect yellow pansy.
It’s been a few years since Sophie graced me with her pansy and I’m sure she’s forgotten all about it. But I’ll never forget her gift—and the smile that leapt from her heart and landed smack in the middle of mine. Sophie knew instinctively what the beloved classic of India, the Bhagavad Gita, has taught for millennia: “He who offers to me [God] with devotion only a leaf, or a flower, or a fruit, or even a little water, this I accept from that yearning soul, because with a pure heart it was offered with love.” It’s not just what you give but how you give that counts. It’s not the size of the gift but the size of your heart.
How big is your heart?