There’s One More Gift…Always!

      It’s a brand new year and we all have the chance to start over. That’s a powerful thought!  Many years, we let that opportunity slip by.  Imagine the freedom of actually wiping the slate clean of all the negatives and instead focusing only on the positives in our lives.  Aside from the scientific meaning, I’d like to think that’s why we call it a “new year.” This opportunity is offered to all men …everywhere.  It makes us connected in a very basic way.   Sometimes, this gift is forgotten or dismissed. Yet, it might be the most meaningful thing we receive.

      It is often difficult to unwrap a new beginning and start fresh because it brings memories and situations that might be painful and scary.  Maybe a loved one has died or has been diagnosed with an illness. We might even be the one who is ill and we feel frightened and alone.  Perhaps, we have lost a job or our home and we are uncertain of our family’s security. Sometimes, there is Military Deployment in the family or one is coming up and we worry constantly. Or occasionally, our burden is a wrong that was done to us over the last year or perhaps, it’s something we did to another person and we are now shouldering the guilt of our actions.  Real situations: real life.

      Here’s the amazing part.  It is virtually impossible not to find something good in even the most challenging of situations.  It’s difficult to see sometimes, but it’s always there. My own personal belief is that we can not control what is done to us, our individual tests and challenges by others, Nature, and our God, but we always have a choice in how we react to those tests and challenges. It appears as basic as acceptance of the things we can not change and a quiet determination to rise above our adversities as a stronger and wiser person.  It is also our opportunity to act both honorably and responsibly not only for ourselves but for others while we find our way.  Very simply, it’s Integrity or doing the right thing regardless of the outcome.  Sometimes it is difficult, but we can accomplish it. 

      Choice is what separates humans from other mammals; that’s empowering.  Even if we personally fail in one test or challenge…a new one will come along in which we get to choose all over again.  Maybe, it’s so we finally get it correct.  Life, as given, isn’t easy.  Often, we do not like the apparent choices as they are presented to us and sometimes, they seem unfair, but they are choices nonetheless.

      With each and every positive choice we make for ourselves and towards others we further define who we are as Human Beings and make the world a better place. Every day we are given this opportunity to perfect ourselves. It is an absolutely liberating thought and practice. We are not defined by what has been done to us in the past, but instead we are what we have chosen to do for ourselves… both now and in the future.  We can all choose that this year.

     A few months ago, I heard a St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital radio telethon on a local station. It was impossible not to detect thankfulness in the parents’ voices for the care their children had received while at St. Jude. For those who do not know, this is a hospital that treats children with life threatening diseases and never turns away a child whose family is unable to afford the cost of the treatment. Never!

     But, what hit me particularly hard was one parent on air, who was saying that each and every time they bring their young daughter for Chemotherapy at the hospital, when the treatment is over…she wants to stay and play “…because they are so nice there.” The child may or may not survive her ordeal with Cancer, but both she and the parents seem to get that there is always a positive in even the toughest of circumstances.  I admired them.

    We have all been given another similar gift to unwrap…Life!  It’s another one of those gifts, like a new year, that is often forgotten and just taken for granted. Thanks to the recent movie, BUCKET LIST many people are now, more than ever, trying to scratch off their own dreams and wishes before their individual time here expires.  My own thoughts and methods in this regard are more in the line of: Why would an individual ever wait to experience the riches of life?

     One need not have an expensive or lengthy list to experience life’s amazing gifts. Maybe we can just slow down and recognize LIFE for the precious gift that it is… all on its own. A good place to start would be if we all recognized the small things of our day that touch our soul. We so often overlook these because we are too busy or we yearn for something greater and grander. Actually, just embracing each day to the fullest is pretty amazing all on its own! The sun as it is setting in the west on a glorious evening, the extra hour of sleep curled up next to the one we love on our day off, a walk in nature, or helping a total stranger- are wonders that can be enjoyed by all.  

       Simple things are in our lives for the taking, but we need to make an effort of recognizing them.  Each day for the next month write down at least one thing that you did that day, which you normally would have taken for granted. At the end of the month, you have a wonderful Living List.   Now, this is a great list!

      It’s pretty safe to say that all of us lost something this past year.  If we lost family members or friends, it is important to honor their memory by becoming strong within ourselves. What a wonderful tribute to them if we actually become better people in spite of our grief over their passing. Reaching out to others in need: financially, emotionally, or spiritually can be done in their name. We further define their life by our own positive choices. Also, there is great healing in personal growth of our own.

      Unfortunately, because of the economic turmoil in our country many lost their jobs as companies downsized and went under. Homes across the nation saw the greatest foreclosure rate in decades and those who were lucky enough to actually sell their home, sold it for much less than anticipated. For some, retirement assets dwindled and savings all but evaporated.  Yes, it was a year of great changes…financially.  However, the coming months will be an opportunity of new choices and fresh starts. I’m going to embrace the changes and hopefully learn from the experience.

        Not everyone suffered a financial loss but they were tested in other areas. This is a given; no one has it all. All too often tests and challenges are in the area of relationships.  Perhaps, a relationship at work or within the family didn’t go exactly the direction it should have in the past year.  Words were said to each other and actions directed at another person that might seem irreversible. There’s that old joke about… nothing is certain but death and taxes.  Actually, it is a good lesson.  Negative actions towards each other can cease and hurtful words can be corrected by heartfelt apologies.  It appears that nothing worthwhile is ever easy and this will be no exception.  There is no guarantee that there will be forgiveness, but the effort of trying is notable.

     What is amazing about our time here on Earth is that with each positive action we choose, we have the opportunity to leave our own Human Footprint in time.  Let this be the year that our lives aren’t so much about what we have…or what we’ve lost, but rather what we’ve given and therefore found.  Here’s to all of us opening that last gift!