During this time of gift-giving, who of us doesn't recall Christmases of yore. As Alice and I decorated our tree the other day, we reminded one another of the stories behind some of the ornaments, given to or bought by us: there's the tiny covered bridge we picked up in Vermont; that one was made by your Mom; this was from our third year together...
My brother Jim often recounts a Christmas story from when we were all young. The gifts for us seven children were brought in one by one in large trash bags and laid at our feet. Amidst the sounds of paper ripping and boxes crunching, we were all oohing and awwing others' toys, as was Jim. But then he began to cry. Apparently, each child had received their bag of gifts... except for him. He could only sustain happiness for the rest of us for so long until the dam burst and disappointment tears began to flow. Then Mom looked at Dad and realized one bag had yet to be retrieved from their secret (Santa) storage. Soon sadness turned to gladness and all was calm in the bright Francis house.
Not too long ago, NBC's Hoda Kotb related what happened when she complimented an assistant on work she had done. The assistant looked at her and said, "I received that." Hoda writes: "Her phrase 'I received that' meant to me, 'What you've said to me is inside of me now. I'm not deflecting it, I'm receiving it. I accept your kind gift.'"
The response in Spanish and French to "Thank you" translates literally to"It's nothing" (de nada; de rien). But receiving a compliment well or expressing gratitude for a gift is something- it expresses an inner strength that reveals a truth often missing in verbal exchange: I am hearing you; I'm listening; I'm receiving what you're saying and not judging it. I'm not taking your side because this is not about who's right- I'm listening to you and receiving what you are saying to me; and that's what I would want you to do for me, too. This is not nothing; this is certainly something very important in communication.
In a year when there has been a lot taken from us (normalcy, freedom, people we have loved and lost), please do not overlook the MANY gifts that come your way every day, but especially the ones that might come wrapped, stamped, delivered and opened by you on or around December 25th. Practice thanking someone by saying "I received that" and really mean it.