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What’s A Gift?


J.D. Pendry



On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  - Matthew 2:11 (NIV)


Do you expect any gifts this year?  Do you expect to give any?  Since it’s the gift season, I’ve thought about it some.  Unfortunately, the warm and thoughtful plastic gift card does not resolve all the issues I have with gifts.  I may need therapy.  When I think of gifts, my first thoughts are of the material ones much as the gifts mentioned in the above scripture.  Even with those types of gifts, I’m not sure most of us get it right.  Well, I don’t propose to speak for you, but my experience as giver and receiver has been complicated.  Exchanging gifts can be stressful if one doesn’t break the gifting code.


What I’ve learned is that the giver and receiver often have different ideas about what constitutes a gift.  For example, my wife the receiver sees jewelry, expensive jewelry I might add, and I the giver see a food processor.  I usually buy the jewelry while trying to recover from buying the food processor.  Using male math, that means she ends up with two gifts.  I’m a slow learner with a short memory.  My wife confuses the issue also.  My idea of a great gift to receive is a wide-screen, high definition, plasma television.  My dear wife, bless her heart, is a little more practical in her view as a gift giver.


“Honey, you bought me boxer shorts for Christmas?”

“ Well, yours were worn out.  I’d be so embarrassed if your were in an accident wearing ragged underwear”, proclaimed with only the seriousness a wife can have.

“Dear”, I reply while holding up my gift for examination, “When they’re cutting me from the wreckage.”


“And the fireman is getting dangerously close to me with that powerful steel-cutting saw.”


“I don’t want him to burst into laughter when he sees my new underwear with the little fire trucks on it!”


Of course, she tears up and pouts a little.  I assure her that underwear is a great gift and very thoughtful of her.  Later I’ll rip off the Tommy Hilfiger labels.  I still won’t get the plasma screen.


Maybe we spend too much time focused on those material gifts to consider the more important ones.  Notable talents are also gifts and usually the most misunderstood.  Many people are gifted artists, musicians, writers, athletes, leaders…. How a person chooses to use their gift, I believe, determines it’s true worth.


Do you think that leadership ability is a gift?  I believe it is.  I know from experience that you can train a person to understand what comprises good leadership and teach them all about human nature and watch them fail as leaders.  I believe the ability to take learned knowledge about leading and turn it into effective leadership is a gift not unlike athletic ability.  History has produced many gifted leaders; unfortunately, a gift not always put to good use.  Adolph Hitler was an effective, charismatic and gifted leader.  A nut, certainly misguided in his values, but nonetheless gifted.  By misusing his gift, he led an entire nation down the sewer drain of history.


I think it’s a great thing for one to use his (pardon me ACLU) God given gifts to achieve wealth, power and fame.  What we too often see, is all that God given talent turned in to self-admiration, a lot of tattoos, gold chains and a bound into the bleachers to beat the crap out of a five-foot tall drunk.   Wealth, power and fame are also gifts to use wisely.  As the holler folks are prone to tell you over here in Wild and Wonderful, you arrived in this life with nothing and you ain’t taking nothing with you when you leave.  I might add that you do leave a gift when you go.  It’s your legacy.


Our life is a gift, but I expect my view of that might be somewhat different than you think.  I don’t think it’s a gift for us.  Have you ever watched the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life?  Old George found out that lives are intertwined and that by being here we make good or bad things happen for others.  When I reflect on my 28 years in the Army, I often wonder if I was much of a gift to those who depended on me.


Service is a gift.  Think of the young men and women serving in danger on our behalf.  They’re not doing it for wealth.  They’re doing it because they have the gift of selfless-service.  When you gather on Christmas Day with the family, give thanks for the gifts of peace and freedom they’ve placed on your doorstep.


My family is a gift to me.  Through the modern marvel of ultra-sound, we got a little peek at one of God’s miracles in progress.  In a few months, when he’s finished with her, God will give us the gift of Olivia Grace, our new grand daughter.  Children are gifts and are our future.  How we teach, train and model for them will determine the type of gift they become to the rest of the world.


The Christmas Holiday is a gift.  If you don’t believe that, just think what the impact on the world’s economy would be without it.


We received our most important gift, which is our reason for celebration.  With that, I’ll leave you.


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)


Remember the reason for the season.  Have a wonderful Christmas.  BunkerTalk will return on January 2, 2005.




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J.D. Pendry is author of The Three Meter Zone, Random House/Ballantine.

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