During the holidays it’s hard to know what to buy for people. So many of those we know have everything they really need. So purchasing this or that is just more stuff they have to find places to put, or time to use. But there are gifts that are more precious than gold.
Jeff and I have been married a long time, and together longer. I’m 100% sure I grate on his nerves more than once a day. Nagging him about taking his meds, and what he puts in his mouth (because the Dr. said no red meat and to cut back on salt – Just sayin’). And he can grate on mine too. But then there are moments when his thoughtfulness makes me stop in my tracks and I hope he knows how much I appreciate him every day.
On Christmas Eve he was on the roof in the rain cleaning out my Mom’s rain gutters, as medical personnel came and went from my parent’s house. It rains a lot in Portland (on the West Coast of the US). And the yard is full of Douglas Fir trees, so the needles get under the roof shingles and clog the gutters and downspouts. This can make the roof fail and get soft. Jeff looked out at the gutters spilling over. Then he got out a ladder and took all the downspouts off and cleaned out the gutters and hosed off the shingles. He know’s my Mom doesn’t have my Dad to climb up on the ladder anymore.
Jeff rehung her shower door because she no longer needs to worry about getting a wheelchair in their bathroom. And he fixed her lawn mower. Things she couldn’t do herself and would have had to hire a service to come and take care of, when she had the time. Jeff replaced her windshield wipers on her car and put Rain-X on her windshield to make it safer for her to drive in winter weather (with glaucoma – oh no).
Sometimes I can get whiny. I know this. But Jeff is a good guy and I didn’t need anything this Christmas but the gift of him helping my Mom take care of little things. Even things she might not have known she needed help with.
Since moving to Spain we’ve been learning Spanish. One of the first things that struck Jeff is the word ‘sin’. It means without. The lack of something. Sin gluten is important to me. Without gluten and I look for it in everything I purchase to put in my mouth.
We are not religious people. yet Jeff immediately seized on the word and we’ve repeatedly mused about it. What if we got it all wrong? What if ‘sin’ isn’t committing incorrect acts or doing bad things as written down in a book. What if ‘sin’ is what we don’t do? What we fail to give to ourselves and others when it’s in our power to do so? Compassion for a person who is struggling. Forgiveness, whether we deem it deserved or not. A helping hand when all it requires of us is to reach out just a little farther. Maybe we should turn sin on its head and think of it more as opportunities lost.
I remember standing in a Walmart store in the US more than a year before we moved to Spain. There was a woman who was in front of me and her cart was packed with food and Christmas gifts for small children. She completed the bagging process, and then went to pay but her card wouldn’t go through. She tried another one and it wouldn’t work either.
Now I was tired that day. I just wanted to get done with my transaction and I was frustrated it was taking so long. I’ll never forget the embarrassment on her face. She was furiously texting her husband and trying to call him. The cashier had her step to the side so she could check me out. During my transaction I decided I would pay for her things. I knew I should have stepped in when the cashier asked her to step aside, yet I hadn’t. I didn’t like that I hesitated in my frustrations to get home. When I finished, I realized she had abandoned the cart and was gone. I can still see that woman’s face even today. The confusion, embarrassment and then fear. It was in my power to provide her relief but when the moment came I blinked.
This Christmas, Jeff didn’t let the little moments slip away from him. He took full advantage, in his quiet way, to do what he knew he could do. To give of himself at a time when it might mean more than any other. This year he committed the opposite of sin. He filled in the holes and gaps where he could. To try, in small ways, to make a big difference.
Perhaps I’m thinking this way because I’ve watched the end of someone’s life. A life – if I’m honest – that was filled to the brim of ‘without’. Opportunities lost than could fill an Amazon warehouse, and can never be recovered. Along with the accompanying regrets associated with piles of choices over the course of 9 decades. Perhaps.
The last thing my Dad said to Jeff was to thank him for taking care of me. He wasn’t like Jeff at all. but he knew a good man when he saw one and he was grateful I had someone so good to fill in my gaps and to walk beside me on the way. And so am I.
In 2020, hug those close to you. Tell them you love them every day. And let them know that even though you nag them, you do so because you love and appreciate them. And for me? I’m committing to paying more attention to the little moments. The opportunities to fill in the ‘without’ when it’s in my power to give it to another – whether strangers or friends. Because, its seems to me to be the reason we’re all on this big blue ball floating in the vastness of space in the first place.