catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 20 :: 2004.12.03 — 2004.12.16


Late night thoughts on the perfect gift

Hmmmm. The perfect gift. Is it one such as those in O. Henry's
magical story where each seeks to give the beloved a gift that touches,
and enhances, their most cherished possession? Perhaps. I recall when
my sainted mother-in-law died and her eight grandchildren were sharing
memories of her. Much laughter erupted as each grandchild was certain,
and tried to demonstrate, he or she was Nana's favorite. How could this
happen? Because Nana had the gift of seeing everyone she loved—and
they were many—in each individual's particularity, and gave gifts that
bespoke her insight and love.

I am not so sainted. Being of the Reformed tradition, I would be
less than honest if I did not confess that. Part of my prayer
discipline is to pray for various people and groups of which I am a
part as I walk laps at the gym where I seek to preserve my mortal and
aging frame in some semblance of working order. I do a lap praying for
my extended family, one for my friends, one for my colleagues at the
hospice where I am chaplain, another for our patients, one for the
members of my singing ensemble, another for members of boards on which
I serve, another for places of injustice and violence, another for
people I love who are sick in body or mind or spirit or relationship,
another for churches whose ministries I think matter. And then I do a
lap praying for the people I simply cannot abide, those folks whom God
in infinite wisdom and humor places in my life to keep me humble about
the limits of my compassion.

The perfect gift? For me, it is my regular blood donation. Every
fifty-six days, I donate, sharing that which I cannot make because of
any effort of will or choice. My O- just is. I have control neither
over its production nor its distribution. Its origin and destination
are equally beyond my knowledge. And my blood might just end up helping
to speed the healing, even save the life, of one of those folks I pray
for on my last lap. I would be grateful to have given such a gift.
Jesus said, "Pray for those who persecute you." May my blood be the
embodiment, the incarnation, of that prayer. Indeed, the most perfect
gift of which I am capable.

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