!My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others.

Bob Hope

“Brenda – just tell them your presence is their present .”  Advice from my friend Dave, as we chuckled over my showing up unannounced to crash at my brothers’ house, just in time to make a holiday high school reunion.

I suppose with a straight face I could pull it off.  Who wouldn’t want me breezing in to celebrate Christmas?

Then it hit me – probably more people than I realized.

The only gift is a portion of thyself. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just this past week alone, I’ve listened to several hurting people:

  • My neighbor – about to lose her job and the pension she had planned on for years.
  • Another friend also losing his job just 6 months shy of being fully vested in his pension.
  • The bickering couple at a Christmas party – both needing an ear, for someone to simply listen.

I had forgotten how powerful being present and listening can be, and how needed it is in today’s stressful world.

Then I thought about who else I could give listening as a gift.  Bob, in the hospital again, was at the top of my list.

I picked up the phone to ask him when a good time would be for me to pop over. His reply? “NOW!” I guess living with stage 4 cancer means there is no time like the present.

It was already 7:30 pm, and I was pushing the time limits on visiting hours. But I walked into the hospital like I owned the place, with no one giving me a second glance.

It had been a while since I’d seen Bob. I was alarmed at how quickly cancer can ravage a body. Yet awe stuck at how is inner glow radiated from his eyes. His body clearly is betraying him, and his spirit is alive and well.

I had no idea where our conversation would lead. After all, what do you talk about with a terminally ill friend?

As we spoke, I realized I was doing more for him than simply listening.  I was giving him the opportunity to give. To be needed. To participate with life, rather than lying alone.  To have a purpose, in that moment. Who doesn’t want the gift to fully engage with life?

And, he offered me what he could give – sage advice, observation, encouragement, and listening… to me.

For it is in giving that we receive.

St. Francis of Assisi
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Expect good things and they will come.