What if every person and every life situation presented to you is a gift from God? – Neale Donald Walsh
As the holiday season approaches, I’ve been reflecting on some of the gifts I’ve received over the years.
Usually when I think of a gift it’s something that brings me instant joy or gratification. I think that most of us were programmed at an early age to think that way; at least in the world I lived in.
As a young boy, I remember being so excited with anticipation as the holidays rolled around and I got to unwrap all my gifts. Each time I opened an article of clothing or a book, I would quickly toss it to the side and move quickly to the next beautifully wrapped present, hoping it was one of the toys I had been eagerly awaiting for the prior two months or so.
I had one grandmother who always got me exactly what I wanted. One year it was a creepy crawler kit where I could make my own little rubbery bugs and creatures to freak my sister out. Another time she got me this life-sized robot that shot suction-cup darts that would stick to the wall. It’s funny how the gifts I loved the most seemed to be the ones that annoyed my mom the most. Mom and Gram always had a strained relationship so I suspect that Gram got an added benefit from getting me those gifts.
My other grandmother was very practical and she always got me the not so cool gifts. You know, the ones that I actually needed but never wanted. Things like jackets, boots, and mittens that kept me warm, over the next several months were never on my radar. It wasn’t until much later in life that I came to appreciate the gifts I never wanted.
Today, at 58 years old one of my greatest gifts is hindsight. Hindsight allows me to see the real value in certain gifts that I may not have realized at the time I received them. Here are a few of the other gifts I never wanted.
I never wanted to be a rape and incest victim. Spending three years of my childhood being molested taught me forgiveness and compassion at a level that I don’t expect I would have otherwise known. Today, I see those virtues as my greatest gifts and I use them every day in my work and in my life.
I never wanted to watch my best friend get murdered and bleed out in my arms. That experience taught me how temporary and precious our time on this earth is and has given me motivation to make the most of my short time here. Him keeping in touch with me throughout the years has also shown me that we never die, we just move on to the next leg of the journey.
I never wanted to go to prison. I got locked up at a time when my addictions were at their peak and I probably wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for prison. I credit prison with saving my life.
I never wanted to be an addict. Despite what others may think I have never known addiction to be a choice for any of the thousands of addicts I’ve known. While I agree that using had a known risk known risk, it was a risk worth taking to alleviate a greater pain that no one else can possibly know because they didn’t feel it. The gifts I’ve received from over two decades of addiction are far too many to list in this blog. The most significant two that come immediately to mind are the awakening of my soul and the relationships with other awakened souls. There are no other people on this planet, I’d rather be surrounded by than those who walked through the hell fires of addiction and came out on the other side. These are my people and I’m honored to be one of them.
Today, I’m being asked to embrace another gift I don’t want as I witness my own children struggle with some of the same things I did.
It seems like no matter how many times it has been shown to me, I will always struggle with the current gift I never wanted. I guess that’s because we humans have the ability to take our worst nightmares about the past and the future and make them our reality.
The reality is, watching my children struggle while being powerless to change it has made me a better father, a better husband, and a better man with faith and purpose. And who am I to think that my children won’t receive the same gifts from their struggles that I received from mine?
I trust that someone or something way smarter than me is filling the shoes that my parents and grandparents used to fill so well, many years ago by giving me what I need even if I don’t want it.
My part is to just continue asking the question, “What is the gift I’m refusing to accept?” and know that one day, I’ll likely know the answer.