My first Christmas in Canada, in 1971, happened during a two-week residential Gestalt Workshop at Cowichan Farm in Duncan on Vancouver Island. It was different than any Christmas I’d ever experienced.
In some ways my memories are a bit hazy; I am not sure I can still name every person who was there, but I have a very strong sense of how it felt to be sitting around the farmhouse table, candles flickering, and listening intently as each person in the small group took his or her turn to give their gifts to the rest of us. By this time we’d been on retreat together for a week, so we knew more about each other than we may have known about members of our family.
Each one of us had the opportunity to give each other person one gift. It wasn’t a physical gift. We gave a gift that embodied our recognition of the talents and resources, the habits of being; the longings as they had been revealed in our work together. We prefaced each statement with, “If I could, I would give you ….”
The joy that came from seeing someone smile, their face alight with pleasure, on receiving a fantasy gift that recognized them, was heart-opening. My sense of anticipation each time it was my turn to receive a gift was high, as high as the anticipation I felt as a six-year old, waiting until it was time to get up and see if Santa had brought me the doll I asked for.
The gifts we gave each other felt very real; some were funny, some deep. Being seen, having my longing met, filled me up.
I’ve always enjoyed giving gifts. That year I realized that it was the sense of seeing something special about someone and finding something that could celebrate that special thing, that I found so engaging about giving gifts. It is an opportunity to answer something in them.
Being seen, being heard, knowing that our lives are witnessed and respected, knowing by this that we are connected, is a precious gift. Reflect on the qualities that connect you to family and friends, and then discover the perfect fantasy gift, the one that will let them know that you see and value their special quality, and value their presence in your life–or just tell them what you love and appreciate about their presence in your life.
Join the conversation: What engages you about gift giving? What is the most memorable gift you’ve ever given? Received?