Saying “thank you”
This day before Christmas is filled with anticipation and uncertainty. The gifts are assembled, the rituals lined up, the day filled with activity, and, as we close our restless eyes at night, the atmosphere warps with the silence of times that have passed and times that will come.
When I was a boy I struggled to find the space to say thank you sincerely. The things that I was given at Christmas were measured against the things that my sisters got. Did I have as many toys? Were they as good? Was it what I wanted? The bounty was a way of measuring my parents’ attention and their love.
Standing in my life today, I understand how valuable the most profound gifts are. The thought and care that goes in to giving them outstrips the joy of getting them. A true gift is the reflection of a person’s regard, their willingness to look at you, how you stand in life, and acknowledge it.
Today we should be thankful not for the gifts that we are giving or the gifts we are about to receive, but for our good fortune in having people around us who give us the gift of themselves. That is the hardest thing to say thank you for.
I am thankful for the gift that all of you have given me. Your attention, your engagement, your kind words, your ideas, your encouragement.
But most of all I am thankful for the gift of honesty.
I can’t describe how cherished that gift is.
A few weeks ago, Katherine James shared on Twitter a quiet kind of spirit quest. She went to visit her father’s grave.
She shared pictures. She shared the experience. And she shared the fragments of understanding, the bright explosions of sadness, the awareness of time with unadorned words, clear emotions and an abiding sense of dignity.
I followed as the record unfolded, tweet by tweet. It was humbling and inspiring. I wondered if I could ever accept myself and my life the way that she accepted hers. I wanted to comment but I couldn’t find the right words.
It takes courage to try to be a straight tree. The elements batter us, our spirits look to duck and bend to ease the pain, and it’s only the most courageous who can stay tall and present. They are not the strongest. They are the most determined.
The photograph at the top of this post captured that essence for me. The old man and the young woman share a quiet vitality. They are connected by more than an embrace. They lean forward together. They are connecting with the world around them. They are outside themselves and made into one self. They have weathered storms. More storms will come.
Katherine’s spirit quest has lingered with me. It is one of the most powerful things I’ve witnessed in this world we all share.
This Christmas I am thankful for all of the courageous people who are in my life. They inspire me. I am thankful for T., who has a beautiful and strong soul and who’s taught me what it means to trust your own heart. I am thankful for each one of you. For Katherine James. For strong, open souls. For accepting the mystery of life. For committing to create. For patience. And for the unwitting giving of the greatest gift: Love.