I hope I am not the only one who has ever done something like this. Months before someone’s birthday I see something that will make the perfect gift for them. I buy it and set it safely aside – then forget that I ever bought it. The person for whom it was intended never received it.

So was it a gift or not? When does a gift become a gift?

If you were the intended recipient you would undoubtedly and rightly say that what I bought was never given and therefore not a gift. If I sent the gift and you never received it, would that make it still not a gift? Is it the giving or the receiving that makes it a gift?

This is not so frivolous a question as it seems. We all have been given gifts that we don’t realize. We act like we have not received the gifts of courage, insight, or the ability to love and care for one another. These things are already inside us. We are being offered the gifts of compassion and friendship, but many times we are oblivious to the offering and so never receive them.

Sometimes the problem is the giver. Sometimes it is the receiver that is the problem. If we open our hearts and minds we will find that life has many more gifts to offer than we had ever hoped to receive. When we open our fist to let go out hurts, bitterness and grudges, we will be surprised what good things can then be received.

There are other gifts that we need to claim by action, not just by opening our hearts. We each need to claim our own dignity, value, hope and self-respect. We may call these rights because they are ours innately, but they need to be received and claimed as our own. The good news is that because they have already been given, no one can take them from us. The bad news is that because we have not claimed them, we often think they have been taken from us.

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