Recently I found a delightful and thought provoking children’s book at the library, it was entitled “The Gift of Nothing” by Patrick McDonnell.
It was particularly apt given that we are moving into the festive season – a season here in Australia that seems to be characterised by rushing, shopping, buying, rushing, shopping, and did I mention buying? It is a season I struggle with from that perspective. For me the festive season is an opportunity to reconnect with family and friends whom we often don’t see regularly throughout the year, it is a time of extra holidays and it’s a time of interesting weather patterns.
The “Gift of Nothing” poses the question – what do you buy someone who has everything? The answer is simple, you give them nothing!
What to buy someone who has everything is a common question many of us have asked (the reality is most of us have everything but often don’t realise it). But how many of us are comfortable with the idea of a gift of “nothing”.
People often say there is nothing on TV, there is nothing to do, there is nothing to buy when we are surrounded by so many somethings. So what does it mean to give nothing? Where do you find nothing? In the book we are led to the reminder that if you calm the mind, if you look within instead of seeking elsewhere it is there you will find nothing…..and everything.
Nothing really? You might ask. “But I have to give something” – what if it’s a birthday? what if it’s Christmas? what if the person doesn’t feel loved if I give them nothing? what if they don’t like me anymore because I have given nothing? what will my children think, they will be so disappointed? And these are all questions worth pondering.
Often it comes back to our expectations and the expectations that we create for others. The experience of disappointment occurs when expectations are not met. Perhaps we can create new reference points around the idea of giving.
What does it mean to give to another? Do we give out of a sense of obligation? Do we give just because it’s that time of the year again? Do we buy for the sake of buying because that’s what’s expected? Can we give without buying, and without disappointing?
I challenge you to see that a gift of no thing may perhaps be everything. What difference would it make to your festive season if your focus was on connection, sharing joy and happiness, cultivating peace and calm instead of deliberating over what gift to buy for who, spending a lot of money on poor quality products that have huge social and environmental impacts and spending hour upon hour in crowded impersonal shopping malls?
I know that many people enjoy these experiences, I know that many people find ethical local businesses to support when buying gifts. But the question I keep coming back to is do we need more stuff in the world? Do we need to show our love and care for others by buying a gift? Are we trying to fill a void for them or perhaps for ourselves?
In Australia conscious consumers are being inspired by the No Waste Festive season – a campaign to reduce consumption and waste. The Story of Stuff Project is also being instrumental in encouraging people to see beyond the mass consumption that is associated with the Christmas, New Year festive season. I encourage you to look at these great initiatives but the real purpose of this article is to help you to see the true gift you can give to another when you give no thing.
Here are some of my favourite ways to give the gift of no thing:
Kind words – gratitude is a great gift that we can give, it not only touches the heart of another but it opens our own heart and eyes to the richness of life.
A hand to hold – think of how beautiful, how reassuring it is to have someone hold your hand.
The gift of nurturing touch – sharing a hand, foot, head or shoulder massage is an ideal way to communicate love, acceptance and care to others.
A smile and a willingness to listen without judgement – for many this gift is just what they need.
The gift of time shared in a world where most people are “short on time” ……a willingness to slow down, to stop even and give your full attention to another is a priceless gift. Assist with a project, read to another, share a meal – the options are endless
Sitting together with another or many others in silence, pondering this beautiful gift of life and this amazing planet that sustains us and knowing that we are each complete in that moment, perfect as we are, appreciating nothing and everything together.
And perhaps the greatest gift you can give is your calm and peaceful presence, your happiness and joy. When you bring attention to your interactions with others and the world around you you see a myriad of choices and you realise that a beautiful world really does begin with you.
So give the gift of no thing this festive season – pay attention to the people you are with, express your gratitude to those near and far, feel the connection between you as you hold hands or embrace another – and trust me you will be giving everything.
And what about the story, how did it end? “The Gift of Nothing” finishes with an empty box being opened, “there’s nothing here” says Earl……”Yes” says Mooch, “Nothing……… but you and me” and together they sat and enjoyed nothing and everything together…..
What do you think? Can you see the potential in giving the gift of nothing?