For you, dear reader, I offer this story...
After many years of living, loving, and learning, a man looked around at his possessions and saw he had been blessed. He'd struggled in life, yes, but he needed nothing and was in want of very little. But in looking around at all he had, he realized how much there was. Too much really. So he slowly began to whittle away at his possessions until had only what he needed and cherished. His life felt simplified and content. It was joy in the most basic of ways and he reveled in it.
One day, not long after, a friend stopped by for a visit. The man was delighted to see his friend and embraced her upon his arrival. They sat down for a cup of tea as the sun poured in his little humble kitchen window and laughed and reminisced and caught up. Suddenly, his friend remembered that she'd brought a gift for him and hastily pulled it from her pocket and handed it to him filled excitement. The man, surprised, told her she didn't have too of course but that of course he was touched and upon opening it found a lovely little stained-glass sun catcher to remind him of her. He put it in his window and it glowed as it's fragments of color caught the sun's rays and delighted his home. Their visit ended shortly and his friend left.
Life went on with him doing his daily routines and other guests stopping in from time to time. One day he was sitting by himself and noticed that though the sun was shining, it somehow just didn't seem to sparkle into his home like before. He thought about this for a moment and walked over to the window to inspect it. Immediately he could see the problem. The suncatcher was grimy with dirt and dust and fingerprints and the daily grind of life happening about it. He'd never stopped to clean it. He grabbed a rag and polished it up and placed it back in its place. Once again, it radiated beauty like before.
This brought a broad smile of deep satisfaction to the man, until he looked about his home and saw that there were other things that were not as beautiful as they'd once seemed. Though he had few trinkets, he'd been given a few as gifts and he noticed now how they all had collected dust and debris just like the suncatcher. Being the deep-thinker that he was, this made him wonder, "are gifts truly gifts when we have to work to maintain them? When we have to sacrifice time or energy for them?" Those gifts were cherished and beautiful but they did need work done to or around them, some more than others. If this was true, which he now knew it indeed was, then why accept a gift at all if in the end it just cost you time and effort...or more. So he decided at that very moment, to give away his trinkets--including the beautiful suncatcher--and made the decision to humbly, but honestly, and as kindly as he could, decline all gifts.
As the years passed on, the man insisted on living this way. He turned down gifts and while some friends understood, some did not and he eventually lost touch with them. This made him sad when he thought about it, for he never intended to hurt his friends nor lose relationships. He was not lazy in the least as he worked very hard everyday. It was just that he was struck so deeply by the realization that no gift comes without some form of work involved, that he was intrigued enough to see what difference not accepting those said gifts would make. And a difference it did make. He had far less--if any--unnecessary work to do. But his life was duller now. He'd not only lost the few gifts he had that magnified the beauty of his home; he'd lost the friends who had magnified his life.
At the very end of his life, he realized the most important lesson:
No gift is effortless.
No blessing is free from burden.
...to be continued...