My midlife transition has taught me many things, which sounds very much like something straight out of the Book of Corinthians:
A time to accept,
A time to let go.
A time to change,
A time to surrender.
A time to take a risk,
A time to be brave.
A time to give,
A time to receive.
As a child, I eagerly awaited the magical appearance of the gifts under the tree, hoping that my wishes would come true. Later on, in my adulthood, I learned the ropes and realities of gift-giving, of going through the trouble of finding a suitable gift that the receiver would remember me by. Motherhood imposed the burden of becoming the mystical gift giver upon me and it then became my turn to make wishes come true. While I frantically ran around stuffing the advent calendar for my daughter, I also learned the value of intangible gifts that cannot be bought in any way and yet are more valuable than anything that money can possibly buy.
The thing is, there are two sides to these gifts, and they become whole only when they contain the element of reciprocity. Affection, for example, is meaningless if it is one-sided. Plato would argue that there is no friendship if the two parties do not give of themselves and surrender to each other. And understanding entails listening as well as expressing.
In my 40s I learned the value and importance of giving and expecting nothing in return. Thus far, my 50s are teaching me how to accept the grace of receiving and be humbled by the generosity of others, especially when it involves something intangible.The gifts that matter most are not those we unwrap, but those we savour with time and words, those that nourish the soul.
Here, again, is the Prayer for Generosity of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which sits at the core of my being and is my daily mantra.
Lord, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.