The baby and young child start life as gifts, unbeknownst to themselves. They are what they are, naturally, as much as a beautiful, undisturbed landscape or animal in the wild. Consciousness is relatively undeveloped through the early years. And when children are bad or are hard on themselves, it is the early consciousness without perspective that again cannot see that the individual is and has been– a gift per se, as is, in all his or her relative innocence and ignorance.
There may eventually come a point in the teen years and early adult years when the individual becomes more aware of receiving the special gifts of others. It may be the case of an aunt bequeathing a favorite painting, a grandfather bequeathing a car to a young married couple, or simply the awareness of a family member or friend giving up their time and acting for the individual in some important, meaningful way.
Our first significant relationships often have an element of the gifts of self–individuals doing or offering their best for others, sometimes willing to sacrifice much for the other, fortunate person. Weddings often have a strong sense of this mutual gifting–a free, voluntary sharing of the best of one’s self.
This theme, likewise, runs through certain occupations and work such as counselling, teaching, and nursing. The best people in those areas open themselves up and offer their best to others who want or need it. And we may also find that it is our friends, from high school on, who offer the most memorable gifts of self, without asking anything in return, these special people without agendas who are apolitical in what they offer others.
Life goes on and at some point, we may wake up and review our pasts and find, recognize, and appreciate the many special gifts of self we may either have taken for granted or not fully understood and appreciated. This may turn out to be a very long list with many faces from past and present. We may also stop to consider, in turn, how and when we ourselves were gifts of self to others.
I think in later life you can often see a belated recognition of the gifts of self in occasions such as funerals where there is, typically, albeit belatedly unfortunately, celebrations of lives. Although it is good for survivors, family and friends to hear of the special gifts of self, too often the testimonies of appreciation are too late–things that were not said to the face of the person when he or she was alive.
No, the best time to offer, accept, and appreciate the special gifts of people is when folks are more fully conscious and alive. For there are many a desert flower and Eleanor Rigby who have lived and died without that deserved attention, experience, recognition, and love. Simply put–the power, magic, and importance of giving and receiving the very special Gifts of Self.
Two other obvious areas of gifts of self are in and through the arts and great people of history. This is a theme I will come back to this spring….