At first glance, saying “thank you” may seem a simple thing. Not so. If you really stop to think about it, the gift we receive today comes to us at the end of yesterday’s planning: the giver thought, bought, wrapped and gave. Our gratitude moves beyond the gift to the knowledge that someone cared.
This is the very essence of giving--that we learn both to give freely and to accept graciously; that we realize that gifting in reality is a reflection of the give and take that is part and parcel of our lives. As such, our ability to give is not limited to material objects we can see and touch. Our most valuable gifts sometimes come to us in the smile of a stranger, the kindness of a friend, or the laughter of a child.
We are but a small part of many meaningful gift exchanges that have gone on for centuries. Researchers believe that cavemen gave presents of odd-shaped rocks or animal teeth to strengthen social connections and show appreciation. For thousands of years, Native American tribes engaged in the tradition of potlatch, a complex ceremony where property and gifts were given to underscore status or wealth. Ancient Egyptians buried their dead with elaborate gifts and rituals to ensure immortality.
Today, as off-shoots of these traditions, we give gifts to define relationships, express appreciation and strengthen bonds with family and friends. The uniqueness of our gift carries with it a little part of who we are, just as the thankfulness we express bears an underlying promise to respond in kind.
This New Year, as clocks wind down on months of COVID uncertainty, “thankyou” should be at the front door of our minds. We have been blessed abundantly with gifts of warmth, sustenance and safety. We have been vaccinated, boostered, and cared for—all reasons to give thanks to the greatest of all Gifts found bundled in the “manger” of our heart.