“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Best Gift Ever?

Last Sunday in church, I suggested that the “Give” part of First Universalist’s Mission Statement invites us to develop a practice of big, generous, radical giving. It invites us to give the gift of deep attention to ourselves (not ego attention, but deep attention, i.e. really checking in with our spirits), to others, to the planet, and to the Holy. I suggested that this kind of "giving of attention" opens the door to all other kinds of giving. You might think of it as the gateway gift. When we really pay attention, it becomes clear about what to do and give next. 

(If you’re interested, you can listen to the sermon, here. And a congregant shared some fascinating thoughts, here.)

I also said that this kind of giving is so important that we need to practice it in some concrete ways:

One way is to give someone a one hour “time coupon.” (On Sunday, the orders of service actually had “time coupons” in them that said, “Give this time coupon to a recipient who will get one hour of your undivided attention on a project or activity of their choosing.”) You decide who gets this – a child, friend, or partner....Whoever it is will get 60 minutes of your undivided attention.

It might seem like a simple, silly gift, but it’s pure gold.

Life size brontosaurus!
For example, our own son loves dinosaurs and cars. I could give him dinosaurs and cars every time I see him; he’d like it! But what he really likes is when I play with him; when I pay attention to him, when I give him my full self. That’s more valuable than a life-sized brontosaurus.

This attention feeds his spirit. (It’s true that I can’t give that kind of attention all the time, but when I do, it matters.)

Second, give a gift a day for seven days. It could be a material gift, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. It could be a helping hand, a hand written letter, a phone call, a home cooked meal, a singing telegram, a walk with someone.

For this exercise, focus on what you have to give and not on what your limitations are. As a colleague of mine says, “When we take the time to pay attention to what we have to give, and we all have so much to give, our hearts begin to overflow with generosity.” It could be standing in solidarity with someone, holding the door open, taking the time to tell a dear friend how much they mean to you. 

So try it. See what happens. You have so much to give. 
And giving makes Love come alive in the world. As the poet Hafiz says,

Even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth, "You owe Me."
Look what happens with a love like that,
It lights up the Whole Sky.

At the end of the day, it’s not what we hold on to that matters -  it’s what we give away - the love, attention, and compassion we give to one another and this world. 

If you were at the service, I'd love to hear your thoughts and reflections...how did you experience this service? 

1 comment:

Diana said...

I gave coupons to my two 10-year old sons after your sermon. They were so happy. With one boy we did art for an hour and with another we did cooking. I told them we could do this weekly, though I forgot about that until I decided to go to your blog. I am going to make this a weekely practice.