Every spring I’m blessed with the natural beauty of colorful roses, flowering trees, and fragrant honeysuckle. The greening and budding and general rebirth across our backyard is like a gift that I get to open again and again.
Now, as the gift-giving holidays surround us, I want to let you in on a little secret. I didn’t originally throw myself into landscaping the yard to please myself. I did it for my mother.
My mother lived with me the last 12 years of her life. It wasn’t because she loved the desert. She was drawn to the lush valleys, forests and beaches of the West Coast. The vast expanse of sand and sagebrush in Nevada was her final destination only because I was here and could offer the support she needed.
As years passed and she became increasingly homebound, I tried my best to grow lovely things for her to gaze at from the comfort of her recliner. When we moved to our current house and the “picture” window proved painfully small, I had it replaced with one four times the size so she could more easily see the wisteria climb up the trellises and watch the yellow finches dangle from feed socks.
I shouldn’t be surprised that the gift I created for her has become, instead, a gift for me. Countless poets, spiritualists, and deep thinkers have long strived for the perfect words to remind us that what we give eventually circles back to us.
One of my grandsons said it well. During our annual holiday shopping excursion, he and his brother were about to go over-budget on gifts for their parents. I pointed out that it would leave little from their Christmas piggy banks for themselves. “It’s more fun to give,” the younger of the two said and handed another gift to the checker.
It’s not difficult to understand why this is so. Seeing someone happy, and knowing we are responsible, is like injecting pure sunshine straight into our own hearts.
It would be easy to turn today’s musings into a tired reminder to help the less fortunate this holiday season. Fulfill a wish from an angel tree. Donate a bag of groceries to the local food pantry. Drop some change in the bell ringer’s pot.
By all means, do those things. But be aware that arm’s-length gestures won’t produce the kind of inner sunshine that makes you eager to give tomorrow and the next day and the next.
For a lasting high, I suggest planting roses. No, not the kind that grow in your backyard. The kind my mother always said popped up in your garden in Heaven whenever you spread the seeds of love. Face-to-face, heart-to-heart, give the most precious gift of all to someone who is hurting or lonely or lost. Give love. Give it generously. Your piggy bank can never run out because every measure of love you share will circle back to you in spades. Take it from my grandson, it will be fun.