40: The Gift of Change

40: The Gift of Change

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

The Gift of Change

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

~Bertrand Russell

For years I was unhappy with most of the gifts I received for my birthday, Christmas or other occasions. I put a lot of thought into the gifts I gave to others, and it seemed to me that that they did not return the favor.

Didn’t those closest to me know that I didn’t enjoy reading romance novels? Or that gadgets for my car would go unused? And surely they should have figured out that if they wanted to get me a food gift it had to be chocolate! But no, the stream of gifts that I put in the back of my dresser drawer, gave away, or even sometimes threw away, continued.

I didn’t speak up. I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of those I loved and cared about, but my resentment began to grow. I felt like the most important people in my life didn’t really know me, or maybe didn’t care enough about me to think about my likes and dislikes.

One day I was unwrapping a birthday gift from my teenage son — a blouse more stylish than I felt comfortable wearing. My first thought when I peeled back the tissue paper and saw the blouse was that it was another candidate to hang in the back of my closet. But when I looked up at Jason’s face and saw him smiling at me with anticipation, I finally got it. It was an epiphany that made me readjust the attitude of a lifetime in a moment.

“What do you think, Mom?” Jason asked, barely waiting for me to pull the blouse out of the box. “I thought it would look so nice on you.”

“It’s beautiful,” I was able to say authentically as I hugged him. In that moment of clarity I realized that Jason saw me as someone who would be open to receiving and wearing something more elegant than my usual attire. He wanted to give me something special.

“Try it on — I want to see how it looks,” Jason added.

“I know just the skirt to try it with,” I said as I headed towards my closet.

When I re-entered the living room with the outfit on, Jason was waiting. “It looks just like I thought it would. It’s pretty on you, Mom,” Jason said.

I tried to stop the tears that were welling in the corner of my eyes. “Thank you, honey. It is a beautiful blouse. I can tell you put a lot of thought into picking it out.”

“You’re welcome Mom — glad you like it,” Jason said, and he continued to smile as he gave me another quick hug before he walked away.

Jason probably wondered why I was so emotional over the gift. He had no way of knowing that he’d given me much more than a blouse.

I began to think back on gifts I’d rejected as a bad fit for me and grasped the fact that maybe the people who gave me the gifts saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. They might have thought I was more romantic, or adventurous, or saw me as a better cook than I gave myself credit for. I began to see myself as others saw me. That opened me up to change and growth.

In the years since I received Jason’s present, I have rarely felt disappointed when a gift doesn’t match my interests or desires. I go into holidays with no expectation of receiving anything, and then everything I receive becomes a blessing. The idea that someone thinks of me, and spends precious time, thought and money to purchase and wrap a gift is more than enough for me. It is amazing how much more pleasant each occasion is, and how much more I appreciate my family and friends since this insight.

There is definitely something special about receiving a gift that is perfectly suited for you. But I have found it is just as special to receive all gifts with an open mind and a grateful heart and spirit.

~Nancy Hatten

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