Gifts … Received and Given

There is a plaque hanging on the wall of a meeting hall that I used to visit from time to time, that has a message inscribed on it which I think that our community of gender-variant people should take up as our mission statement, or at least make a part of our mission statement. The plaque, crudely made and difficult to read if you are not standing directly in front of it, reads as follows:

“What we are is God’s gift to us.
What we do with it is our gift to God.”

There are, all too frequently, things in our lives that we fail to see for what they are. We see a glass half empty that we should see as half full, blessings we see as burdens and opportunities we see as obligations. Many times we accept the incorrect opinion as gospel truth simply because of the source. At other times we can receive something of nearly incalculable value and very nearly cast it to the trash, simply because it isn’t what we had asked for.
As a child I frequently received gifts for birthdays and Christmas which I just wasn’t thrilled about at all, because they were practical. Practical meant they were no fun at all … like sweaters and socks. What good were those things to the “Cisco Kid”? There were things that I received that had absolutely no functional value at all, like an Engineer Ron doll. It wasn’t even good for a collector’s item. And then there was the present I was given at birth that took me a long time to appreciate.
For many years I looked upon that “present” as more of a curse; a possession to be boxed, tied and placed on the uppermost shelf of the closet. I treated this present as I treated other possessions that I had received as gifts but didn’t particularly appreciate. You know the kind I’m talking about; the purple glass grapes from Aunt Lizavie, the tie with the collies on it from Uncle Howard. I couldn’t throw them away. That would be unkind and besides, you never knew when they might come in handy. You know, for a gag gift. You couldn’t take them out and put them where anyone might see them because nobody else liked seeing them. And you certainly couldn’t throw them away because you never knew when the giver might come for a visit and expect to see the present in use.
So, there it sits in the closet on the uppermost shelf, practically forgotten for a considerable period of time. Then one day, out of the clear blue sky comes this desire to take the box down, open it and really examine it. Was it actually how I remembered it? It wasn’t. I found it to be a thrilling and enjoyable possession. The problem was that no one else wanted it out in the open for people to see. I think about this every time I see the movie, “A Christmas Story”.
I think everyone has seen that movie at least once and remembers the absolute joy “the old man” expressed over his “award”. Even more memorable is how his wife felt, upon seeing the “award”. It was a lamp, which was a replica, life-sized no less, of woman’s leg in a fishnet stocking, which lit up from the top of the sleazy fringed shade to the toe of the high-heeled shoe. The old man insisted on placing it right in the middle of the front room window for the whole world to see. Mother, like many of the people in my life didn’t overtly express her feelings although she did make it clear that she wasn’t really thrilled with the spectacle, now visible to the entire neighborhood. The old man nevertheless was as happy as a clam until Mother managed to “accidentally” knock it off the table, breaking it into a number of pieces; pieces which like Humpty Dumpty could never be put together again.
Most of the people in my life at that time, especially my bride, made their feelings and opinion of my gift perfectly clear. Figuratively speaking my bride knocked my award off the table so no one could see it either. Luckily in my case it was not broken beyond redemption. But I decided that maybe it wasn’t such a keen gift after all and back on the shelf, boxed and tied it went.
And so it went for many years. With increasing frequency I just had to take the box down, open it up and see if the “present” was now as I remembered it. It was. Always! And always it was not appreciated by others who saw it. So I would always re-assess my feelings about it and put it back in the box, tie it up and put it back on the shelf. A couple of times I even threw it away. I thought. But it would always end up back in my closet, up there on the shelf.
Finally, after many tortured years I decided that I could no longer keep this up. But what could I do about it? I couldn’t return it because I didn’t have a clue who or where it came from. I decided to join a group of people who had the same dilemma in an effort to find out what other people did with this “present” that was neither asked for nor wanted. It was just enjoyed. That didn’t really help. I still had the problem. I had this “thing” that no one else around me appreciated and I didn’t really appreciate either because it caused so much turmoil in my life. Just the same I was drawn to it as a moth to a flame.
I don’t know how many times I said a prayer which went something like this: “God, it’s yours. I’m at a loss. If you don’t want me to have it or enjoy it please, please take it away. If I’m supposed to have it and enjoy it please find some way to let me know it.” Years went by and it was still there. At last I said another prayer. “Ok God, I accept it as a gift and not a curse. I will never again treat it as a curse, but I need your help to show me what to do with it.” A calmness of spirit settled over me. A sense of peace wrapped itself around me like a warm blanket on a cold night.
It took a couple of years for me to take the possession down from the closet shelf, open it up and throw away the box and place it where others could see it. When I did, those who had most wanted it gone began to see it in a different light. And it was then, and only then, that I saw it for what it was, a precious “Gift from God.” It is gift to be shared happily with others, a gift to be used for good as my gift to God.

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