Monday, January 31, 2011


I'm going to have to ask you to follow me here, through the thought processes which led to this blog.

I was just watching TV and saw the current GE commercial where factory workers break into a line-dance, and was struck once again with the deep longing for something I have never had, the ability to dance. I would give anything to be able to dance; to be able to be physically graceful.

And then, in one of the short-circuitings I have come to accept as the workings of my brain, I thought of one of my favorite Navy stories. The Ticonderoga was anchored off Naples during Christmas week, 1955. A group of young orphan girls around five or six years old was brought on board for a party. They were all dressed alike, and each was to be given a Christmas present: a identical doll. But as the dolls were being wrapped, it was discovered that they were one doll short. Someone was sent racing from the ship back to Naples to get another, but there were no more. So whoever had been sent for it chose a much more expensive doll, larger and more beautifully dressed as a form of compensating for its difference, and hurried back to the ship.

When the time came to open the presents, the little girls, who may never have had a doll of their own, were absolutely delighted...except the little girl given the special doll. She was heartbroken that she did not get the same doll all the other girls had gotten, and it broke my heart, too, because I knew exactly why she was crying.

And so I am writing this blog about gifts; not store-bought gifts, but the gifts each of us is given at birth. Some are given the gift of beauty, or of grace, or manual or physical which can readily be seen just by looking at the recipient. I was given none of these gifts and, like the little girl with the special doll, I have tended all my life to be deeply hurt by their lack.

Yet when I pause to reflect, and can manage to put envy and longing aside, I am aware of the many gifts I was given: a sense of humor; a sense, I hope, of honor; respect for others; empathy; the ability to recognize and appreciate both sides of an issue, and the good in others. None of these gifts is readily apparent, but they are as special as the little girl's doll. It's not a matter of one set of gifts being better than the other, just that they are different.

I know I am not alone in yearning for those gifts given others but not us, and that there is a strong tendency not to fully recognize our own gifts simply because they are so much a part of ourselves that we're not aware of them. And though most people do not display their gifts on the outside where they can readily be seen, they are there if we just take the time to recognize them. And to resent not being given certain gifts is, in effect, to be ungrateful for those we have.

When is the last time you objectively took stock of your own gifts? While I don't do it nearly often enough, I do do it, and never fail to be surprised by how many there are.

I have the gift of acceptance of the differences between humans, and while I may not like them, I never question their right to have them, or assume I have the right to dictate how they should live their lives. I have the gift of realizing that nothing in life is either all good or all bad, and I am frequently truly surprised to realize how many people do not have that same gift. One of my most treasured gifts is a sense of humor which is often as different from other people's as the little girl's doll was different from her friends'. And I credit this gift with regularly pulling me back from the brink of despair when things, as they so often do in the course of any life, go badly. It will not allow me to take myself too seriously.

I'm not beautiful, but I was given the gift of words, and can write of beauty. I cannot build a bridge, but my words can build entire worlds. My body may not be able to dance, but my soul can. As an Agnostic, I'm not quite sure where these gifts came from, but I am infinitely grateful to have them.

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