A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
November 25, 2021
Thanksgiving is the formal beginning of the Holiday Season for many people. We are incredibly blessed to be living in a time when the Season embraces the diverse Traditions of the World. Soon we will light the Lights of Chanukah, observe the unfolding of Advent, process in honor of the Lady of the Indigenous, delight in the Solstice of New Light, sing at the midnight hour in honor of the Birth of the Child, enflame the candles of Kwanzaa, and greet the New Year. If we consider the entire World, the Holiday Season would be even more profound and extensive. The Day after Thanksgiving marks another custom of profound importance to commerce and the economy.
The Friday after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday,” hoping businesses will enjoy sizable profits as people spend billions of dollars on gifts, services, dining, and travel as part of their Holiday festivities. Unfortunately, “Black Friday” has become a season unto itself. This year there is a serious concern since the inventory of gifts is significantly reduced as the World attempts to recover from the pandemic, labor shortages, and a slow down in commercial transportation. “Shop early!” is the slogan of the hour, or loved ones and friends will go without gifts!
All this causes us to pause. How much stuff do we need? The pandemic invited all of us to slow down, live in the moment, and consider what matters in life. Maybe we need to take a break from gift-giving as we give the gift of ourselves to those we love and those we do not love as we should.
I remember a teacher friend who taught me a great lesson by sharing a delightful story of self-giving. Her young grade school students were fretting they did not have enough money to buy gifts for their parents, friends, and loved ones. They had arrived at the age when they realized gifts were not something you simply received. Discovering the joy of generosity, the young students had a burning desire to gift those who were so generous to them. First, my friend commiserated with their anguish. Then, she proposed a daring and lovely solution. After much discussion, the students concluded the greatest gift they could give was the gift of themselves. Delighting in their wisdom, my friend gave her students a bow to place on their heads. “Never forget, the greatest gift you will ever give is yourself,” she said. This is wise advice to follow throughout the year. Maybe it is time to extend the Season of giving to every day of the year. Every day we can offer a kind word of encouragement, let the light shine forth from our hearts, or share a moment of our time to be in the company of another.
We might still want the slippers, the sweaters, the toys, and the stuff. But, pause for a moment. Even a gift that comes in a box is merely symbolic of the true gift that is your heart. So, dance in the light of the winter moon, sing to the stars, decorate, shop, and cook up a storm but never forget the greatest gift is you.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for all the times you give of yourself.