Thursday, December 13, 2012

Valuable Gifts

Toy building blocks; now I could make anything I could dream of, and I dreamed a lot
Personal electronics – the first calculators and portable radios appeared, and I had one!
My first car, a brand new one that I paid for in cash
The home, built to my specifications – with a fireplace!  MY home
Grown-up toys: the pool table, the organ, and all the books I want.
I valued highly all these things.  At one time, I thought them so important.
The big family around me: grandparents, aunts and uncles, and dozens of cousins
Mom and dad, sister and brother, and a variety of dogs, coming --- and going
A spouse
Friends of youth who will always be, and friends picked up along the way, a few precious ones
Friends discovered on the internet, never met, yet a meaningful part of my life
And strangers, who are there for reasons I sometimes don’t understand.
Life without other people is not life at all.
A safe and happy home, but despite good parents, MY mistakes along the way
The culture and its influences, smoking, drinking, and well … sin was easy back then
Good choices (parental influences) and bad (the “I know” of every teenager – and even adult)
The beginning subtle notice of God:  how “lucky” I was to not be in jail --- or dead
The wisdom that slowly comes with age --- built on the foundations laid by parents and Church
The blessed call of Mary to return to the Faith
JPII, saints, philosophers – teachers all who, with grace, helped me understand my purpose
Miracles, once amazing and startling, now so common and accepted
My Life, many always thought me as blessed, only of late do I know that I am.  What a gift!
When grandma died, I was in the sixth grade.  I secretly drank a little whiskey that night (as did my parents).  The anchor of the family passed, and it was a long time before I felt on solid ground again.
Death didn’t happen again for much of my life, or if it did it was far away, as I was
My brother was the first to go; a hole in my life, but a bigger one, I know, in my parents’
Then began a parade of fellow church-goers and friends.  Funerals replaced weddings as gathering points
Good friends, some from my youth, went home --- to God, I know
I speak to many of them, often.  I know they pray for me.  (I need it.)
Sis and dad seemed to leave on the same day, so close together.  And mom?
Death grows on you, and with wisdom -- and experience – you begin to see the value of this gift, too.
In the Scriptures
On the cross
In the Eucharist
On the altar
In my heart
The gift that made sense of all the others: Jesus, the Father’s gift to me. 
Late have I loved Thee …
  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -
When we remember gifts, most often we think of wrapped boxes, or how we wondered at the contents, and when we showed our happiness (real or faked), and how sometimes we even felt a real joy at receiving something we strongly desired.  But there are some rarer gifts that we forget, and only remember in our heart, the love with which they were given.  They are the most precious.
My brother was born mentally retarded, as we used to say.  His whole life was a trial, and yet he found joy.  He had nowhere near the anxieties that you or I have in our lives.  He also had, as I perceived it then, nowhere near our blessings.  But now I’m not so sure.
There came a point in my teen years when my world was ending, or so I thought.  I remember vividly the sadness I felt as I sat on the couch staring off into space.  My parents perceived the change in my mood:  “What’s wrong,” they asked.  “Nothing,” I replied.  “I’m fine.”  But I recall that it was my brother, who could understand so little of worldly things, who perceived the depths of my sadness.  “Here, Tom,” he said, as he offered me his favorite toy and looked into my eyes.  I didn’t answer him, and we sat there on the couch, quietly, for a very long time.  He didn’t have much happiness in his life, by my standards, but my brother gave me the one thing he valued most that day, and asked nothing in return.
I’ll never forget that day, and his gift.  And I remember looking down at him holding onto my side and seeing him with new eyes.  “How wise you are, little brother,” I thought.  “And how much you love me.”
I will never forget my awareness of the depth of his gift, that day, and the deep love with which he gave it.  He gave me all he had.  For the longest time I think I valued that as the greatest gift I ever received.
Until that day I fully realized, God gave me His only Son.


  1. talk about perspective! wow..thanks for sharing this..relationships..not things...that is our new motto..and life is better because of it.
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Annmarie. Your thoughts remind me of something I recently read about Edith Stein:

    By "person," Stein does not mean an isolated, human individual. Alluding to St. Augustine, Stein notes that the human person is fundamentally relational. ... The human person is primordially a social being living in an I-Thous relationship, an embodied person-in-the-world who intrinsically shares her world with other persons. The essence of "person" cannot be stripped of its particular sociological facts and still be that being. Hence, the essential characteristic of "person" necessarily includes "other persons". (as written in Questiones Disputatae, Fall 2012 issue)

    It's a philosophical way of saying: No man is an island. It is so contrary to our culture today which says 'it's all about me.'

    No it isn't.

    Follow this blather if you find it helps you think, and perhaps gives you some peace; if not I understand.

  3. Inspiring and well written as alwyas.

    I love the story about the small kindness of your brother. I know all to well, how these small things; a little smile, a sweet work a joke even can make all the difference.

  4. You know, you are among the precious ones I mentioned. I read your comment this morning "as alwyas" and laughed at your typo. I needed to laugh. God always seems to give me the things I need, when I need them, even the little things, like a laugh.

    This particular post was kind of a summary of my life, beginnings, growing up, and maturing. It takes a long time for you to be able to look back and see how it all fits together, especially the bad times. I glossed past them in this writing, perhaps I should have focused on them too, but I'm not sure I could really write exactly how I feel about them, bad still, but yet a good thing.

    Sometimes when I read about your life, I see you wrestling with the bad, trying to make sense out of it. I think you are wise beyond your years in attempting to do so. And it is one small thing that gives me hope, in people and in the world --- and in God's bigger plans. That's one thing I like about the internet, the ability to see people who are really thinking about their life and its value and purpose, and not just rolling along in some sing-song fashion. Like the books I read and the prayers I say, I seek to find meaning in my life and in creation. You, and others, in some small way help. Thank you for taking the time, by your life, to teach me.