It is Christmas, a time of year when as a 20 + years veteran retailer I get lost in the frustration and mania of everyone else’s stress. It is often hard to remember the hope, magic and promise of the season while I stuff merchandise I cannot afford into the bags of people who seem to not understand that Christmas is about who you ARE, not what you DO. And so I am reminded of my favorite Christmas mini-movie from my childhood….The Little Drummer Boy.
Even though I am not a card carrying member of any particular region, I have always been touched deeply by the story of a man of infinite importance who was born in the most difficult of circumstances and times. Innocently brought into a world in turmoil, from the day of his birth he is courted by men of power bearing wealth and title to show their importance. In the Little Drummer Boy story, a poor young shepherd boy, angry at the world, runs away and accompanies 3 kings to welcome the baby deemed the “Savior of the world” . While they present the babe with gifts of magnificent wealth, he only has his drum. Although he feels shamed by the fact that his is poor and does not have a gift of great importance, the drummer boy, seeing another child like himself, plays a song. It is his gift from the heart – his simple gift of himself – that the baby Jesus responds to with a smile.
In the beautiful variation of the Drummer Boy song, titled Peace on Earth, David Bowie and Bing Crosby sing:
Peace on Earth, can it be
Every child must be made aware
Every child must be made to care
Care enough for his fellow man
To give all the love that he can
We are reminded by both the movie and the song that the most precious gift of all is our love. So often we think that what we do, how much we spend, what we give/wear/drive or how much we make really matters. Even the best of us think that we can recycle more, eat less meat, or donate to the right causes in order to do our part to make the world a better place. But the Drummer Boy shows that it is not what you GIVE that matters, it is showing up and being who you are. The gift that is most needed in the world is the only one that you can give – YOU.
This is not to say that the presents under the tree that you have thought long and hard about are not valid, or heartfelt or appreciated. I am sure that they are. But I want you to hear this – the one gift that your family, your children or the friend that is going through a rough time needs is you. Your attention, your listening ear, your jokes or whatever makes you uniquely you is what the people around you most need. Even when you think you do not have anything to give – when you feel starved yourself, poor, angry or otherwise not at your best, you are needed and valued and have a place that can be filled by no other.
You do not know how the ripple of your presence will impact the world. Each of us has an opportunity, by doing no more than being truly present and who we are, to change the world and make history. Regardless of the circumstances you were born into or find yourself in, please do not deny the world of the gift of all that you are. Give deeply of yourself. Love freely. Share your passions with us all. This is the meaning of Christmas – to share all that you are – so that we all can be gifted by your full and amazing presence. There is only one you – how much greater of a gift is that?
Please, as this holiday season closes and we turn to the new year, consider making one of your new years’ resolutions to be more present with those you love. And please, share your unique, beautiful, funny and intelligent self with those who need you most – those in hard times, who are alone, sick or in need. Consider volunteering for an organization that speaks to you and learn the true meaning of what it means to give a gift. Who you are is all that matters. Your presence could change lives.
(This is dedicated to my dad Bob Banks, a lifelong volunteer who taught me that when you do something for nothing you gain everything. You instilled the value in sharing who you are with others in me as child through your actions not your requirements. It was your finest moment as a parent and a lesson I never forgot. And to one of my very best friends Jerry — who as a volunteer and a friend always gives fully and completely of himself. I love you both!)