So, yeah, first, you may start out slightly depressed.
Or a lot.
Like the dark’s got you in a chokehold.
Like there’s some black numbness hardening up on the inside of you and you couldn’t care a rat’s bony hind leg if the sun ever shows its face again or if you eat again, carbs, chocolates, or otherwise.
You can be having breakfast and feel like something’s broken on inside and you don’t know how to fix it.
You can just be getting up and feeling like you’re going through the necessary motions of the hardly civilized, yet the peeling truth of it is you really haven’t felt much of anything since that night of a million stars and the flashing fall of one and the sharp coolness of breath in your lung and there was that surge of here and being alive and witnessing.
But who knows how long ago that was now — and how long you’ve been one of the little dead?
You may be fighting it hard, the pressing dark.
They don’t tell you that in school: Your every step forward is one giant leap for your sanity.
And hey, it really wouldn’t have mattered if anyone had told you this earlier either, because knowledge really isn’t what you’ve learned but what you’ve actually lived — but here it is anyways:
Air isn’t what keeps you alive. Courage is.
Courage is what is elemental to living — composed of two parts fierce hope, one part deep breathing.
So that is what you do. After you get up and take the first step, you take just a bit of that courage crumbling at the edges of everything, even if you have only a few crumbs of it, and you use it to make your hand reach out. Yeah, I know — so pioneering and startling.
You make your hand reach out.
But that’s the science of true biology: making your hand reach out is what makes your heart keep beating.
So there’s your #1 — reaching your hand into the red mailbox at the end of the lane and leaving something for the mailman.
#2 Pick a million flowers from the garden
(or buy a bucket of glads from the Mennonites down the road and call it good) and go to the nursing home —
alone, or with the crazy people of your choice. Your introverted/weary/depressed/inject-an-adjective-of-your-choice won’t want to go. Oh well. There are days you don’t want to keep breathing and your body does it anyways. Breathe In anyways. #BetheGIFT anyways. Give.It.Forward.Today.
And leave flowers in the doorways of the residents and sing a hymn with Mr. Bender and choke it back a bit when he says right at the end:
“Now don’t shed a tear when I am finally gone because you’ll know I am finally home with my God.” You will squeeze his hand and nod and it will begin right then.
You’ll notice it on the way out the nursing home door, how that something that’s been broken in you — is starting to break. Let it come.
Never be afraid of the breaking things — because if you let it come, it will come that even the breaking things will break — and then you will finally break free.
You even may or may not turn to the crazy people you brought with you and find yourself smiling this relief, “Okay, new deal: no one comes home from town unless they’ve stopped in at the nursing home.” Because you know you need joy more than groceries. Do they tell you that in school? If you love on the old, you stay young —
#3 could be cookies left on the hood of the police car you pass on Main Street, a car which is parked, incidentally, in front of Chocolates on Main (though the location of the chocolate store is likely not a related point of interest to said police offer and his most convenient parking space.) The crazy people you brought with you, (the boys), may worry that said police officer may mistake Oreo cookies for a bomb. Just ask them not to say that too loudly, because you are on Main Street and all.
Then there will be
paying for a line of coffees behind you (Yes! Really! Yes, we’re serious, for real!)
tennis balls left at the tennis court (“won’t some kids be surprised, Mom?”)
donating your favorite book to the library
writing letters to each of our Compassion sponsored children
putting away grocery carts for tired folks at the store
and hiding quarters in the park under the swing to surprise unsuspecting kids and you will be a bit giddy and laugh like a kid and healing is thing that always comes up quiet and unsuspecting from behind you. Trust it’s always coming.
Hide detergent in the washing machines at the back street laundromat,
deliver donuts to the municipal office,
leave dollars with Be the G.I.F.T. Give.It.Forward.Today tags around the Dollar Store. Grin at the kids coming in. With every G.I.F.T. (Give.It.Forward.Today) that you give, watch your kids smile a mile wide and unfold out of themselves and into the world and something you always hoped for.
bring stuffed animals to kids in pediatrics,
coloring books to the waiting room at the hospital, chocolate to the nurses working ER.
tuck money in an envelope and put under windshield wipers to pay for those parked at the hospital. Really, you’ve got time for this — because life isn’t about making a living — it’s about making a difference.
Write a a thank-you note to your dad,
to your Mom,
and one letter to the teacher that most impacted you and call her sir and ma’am and remember how they made you feel.
Leave correct change at the vending machines
tuck quarters into bubble gum machines
scope the grocery store for someone to buy their cart of groceries (! yes, really — for. you. Today! #BetheGIFT Give.It.Forward.Today)
walk into a restaurant and tell the waitress that you will pay a family’s bill.
Bring a hot pizza to the first farmer you find out in a field. Just about fall over when you climb up on the tractor and find out that farmer in the field is a seventy-two year old grandma, who, a long time ago, was the mother of your kindergarten friend and you’d had at least a thousand sleep overs at her house about a thousand years ago. Hug her long.
Donate clothes to the Salvation Army,
leave a pie at your doctor’s office,
help a new mom with her grocery cart, crying toddler, wailing baby and weak smile.
Bring your Mama flowers and she may not want you to Be the G.I.F.T. without her and she might deliver a meal with you to Colonial Apartments, hand out treats to kids on the street, and laugh delighted and loud and say let’s be the G.I.F.T. again tomorrow.
You could find yourself on a street corner and turning to one of the crazy people doing this with you, someone like say, oh, a Farmer, and confessing, “It takes ridiculous courage to reach out of your comfort zone.”
And then you might catch his eye and say — What if the truth is: every comfort zone is really a death trap.”
That every comfort zone is the zone where you get comfortably cooked. That every comfort zone is where you’re the proverbial frog slowly cooked to death in oh, such comfortable water.
Get out of your comfort zone to comfort others — and the Comforter meets you there with more comfort than you can imagine.
Be the G.I.F.T. and Give.It.Forward.Today — and you get the gift of forgetting yourself. Say the day was as ridiculous as, oh, your birthday — and you will forget yourself and forget what day it is and you’ll end up throwing you head back and laughing because when you lose yourself is when find yourself and you can’t believe if it’s ever happened so clearly as this G.I.F.T. Blitz.
And all you can think, all that you can feel, is all His Word living right under your skin —
How if —
“…. if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.”
Spending yourself is how you pay attention to joy.
The surest way out of your darkness — is to turn on the light for somebody else.
G.I.F.T. Blitz your town. And you defeat your own dark. You defeat a bit more of the dark of the whole world.
And in being the G.I.F.T. — you feel even the broken being broken and you being fixed.
Then some even crazier friend, maybe like the very best sister on the whole planet, might invite you at the end of the day of being the G.I.F.T. —
and make herself the gift back to you with a homemade meal served on her back lawn on these thrifted chairs and these garage-sale tables with old bed sheets and jars of garden flowers and this menu that includes her “on the farm, free-range flattened lemon chicken.”
And there may or may not be a boy who reads the menu and asks if such “farm, free-range flattened lemon chicken” has any relation to road kill and you may or may not slip your hand over his chuckling mouth.
You will eat food from her garden and cake from her kitchen and taste and see that the Lord is good. That the wild boys are good and the days, even the shadowed and dim ones are good, and God is always infinitely good and He says you are so soul beautiful, He lets you be a gift.
In the thickening dark, after the Sister-made cake and the homegrown peppermint-tea, your Sister will throw a white quilt over the back deck railing and you will sit with people you love and who know and still love you, the white haired and the bare-toes and the piggy-tailed and the good men, and you will watch “Fiddler on the Roof” under the sky.
“Fiddle on the Roof” with that question that will come up there scene on the quilted stitches — “Rabbi, is there a blessing for a sewing machine?”
And the answer will come all around you like the gift of a mending for the broken : There is a blessing for everything — there is a blessing in everything — there is a blessing in being the blessing to everyone.
And you will watch grace under stars and candles will flicker in mason jars and you will feel it — the darkness losing its darkness.
Like night becoming a noonday down in the orchard of apple trees.
Related: How to Be the G.I.F.T.
*UPDATED: Click here for the free printable of The Complete List of the 40 G.I.F.T.s — if anyone wants some ideas to G.I.F.T. Blitz their town or celebrate a birthday by being the G.I.F.T.?