Gifts are a funny thing. We all love getting them, some of us love giving them and in general they awaken a sense of happiness and festivity as they are exchanged. Most gifts are done by choice, that is what makes them special.
The gift we choose to give or receive is a firm statement of our love or dedication to the recipient or on behalf of the giver. We could have simply chosen not to give it, or refuse to accept it. The transaction is an overt or even covert statement of appreciation for the other person.
An ordinary gift fills you by the fact that you were able to show up for another. You showed up by making them happy. It can be a piece of paper that recognizes their accomplishments and worth to you, or something materially substantial like a piece of jewelry or the like.
Conversely, on the receiving side, you are filled by that we were noticed for something that you did or simply because you are. Either way, there is still some transactional element. Two willing parties.
Then there is the unexpected gift.
The one you didn’t ask for, the one you didn’t even want, in some cases the one that you prayed you’d never get, yet it arrived. These kinds of gifts don’t feel like gifts at the time, in fact sometimes it takes a lifetime to appreciate them as being gifts. In fact, there are times when such a gift never ever ends up feeling like a gift.
These gifts are ones that we didn’t know we needed, and are the ones that often turn out to be – quite clearly -the ones that are the best. These gifts are the ones where someone did you a favor even when you resisted it.
This exists on a basic level, for example, when your parents vaccinate you against your will but for your good. Your mind is simply not developed enough to appreciate that they did you a favor. Yet, while it felt painful at the time, they will have saved you a lifetime of potentially much more serious agony.
On a more serious level, when you are already a mature adult and you believe that you know what is best for yourself and your parent/God outranks you and tells you that notwithstanding what you think, I still know what is best for you.
I know that you have more growing up to do. I know that you have more expanding to do. I know that you have more mental stretching to do. I know that as capable as you thought you were before, there is more that you can do. I know that you have deeper loving to do. I know that you have a depth of strength, character, love, kindness and compassion that you thought you had mastered. In fact you have even more.
This is a deep gift. It comes from a deep place and requires deep humility to accept it as such but a gift it is.
The Mishna (Eiruvin Ch. 7 Mishna 11, Talmud Kiddushin 23b) says זכין לאדם שלא בפניו – that you can “benefit a person without their permission”.) Simply this means that if I find a good deal for you, that I know you will want, I can buy you that item even without asking you since I am allowed to benefit a person -you – without their permission.
I think on a much deeper level this is an approach that God takes as well. He decides, at times, that He knows that something is good for us even if we vehemently disagree. At that point we become the petulant child screaming to not get the vaccine and He becomes the parent that “knows best.”
The choice element that normally conveys love between giver and receiver is less visible in that kind of gifting, but it is not any less there. In fact it is there more than any other gift.
We can fight it and resist it, but ultimately, like the shot, when we humbly submit to it, it gets less painful and easier to swallow.
So my child, this is your gift.
This is our gift.
You are our gift.
We will all do better when we accept that what is happening is a gift.
RECOVERY – Part 2