What Better Gift than the Gift of Self

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“Broken” 11×14 mixed media on canvas (SOLD); prints available.

Heartache and Sorrow are as much a part of life as joy. In down times, we sometimes think that hardships and trials consume most of our lives, but they probably don’t. If we cleaned the lens of memory, we would also find moments of laughter and sunshine amidst the clouds.

Getting through Christmas is difficult for many. When my children were young, we made a gingerbread house together and decorated it with frosting and festive candies. I baked quantities of good things to eat that were shared with friends and family. Now that the kids are gone, I can barely make myself put up a tree or decorate at all.

I rarely use my oven, knowing that most of the sweets will end up on my husband’s stomach and my hips. I can hardly wait for Christmas to end. I enjoy the spiritual worship and the sense of joy, but the aloneness I feel with my children scattered to the far corners of the US, leaves a hole in my heart.

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“Emma” 11×14 drawing; in celebration of her 92nd birthday

Getting involved in my church and community somewhat fills the void. There are many ways to “get out of self” through helping others. If you find yourself weighed down by personal grief, move yourself to action.

When I’m working in our food pantry, I’m able to give sincere hugs of love to the people in need. Their hunger not just for food, but for companionship and the touch of another human being warms my heart, too.

Self-pity can consume you. When you turn your sorrow outward, in a show of love for others, the grief and sadness becomes bearable. Outlets of love provide a way to healing not only for the giver, but for the one who receives.

There may be times when we are on the receiving end. I was given a life-line many years ago by a neighbor and friend who seemed to know just what I needed.

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“Mother and Child” brush drawing on panel

Suffering from after-baby blues and depression combined with a traumatic experience had made me morose and frozen in inactivity. One day the doorbell rang, and there she was with a shovel in hand and some plants from her backyard.

“You’re coming outside with me,” she said without giving me a chance to refuse. I followed her outside like a sheep needing a shepherd.

We spent the next hour in the sunshine, planting my favorites from her garden. While we worked, we talked. After she left, I felt hope for the first time in weeks. The sunlight not only warmed my body, but my soul. My friend had pulled me from my dark sadness to a place of friendship and love. I would survive.

I’ve been forever grateful to her for taking the time to reach out to me. First she was aware that something was not normal, then she thought of a way that she could reach out to lend me a helping hand. Her example has helped me watch for the clues and signs in other people that indicate they may need my help.

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“Moody Blues” mixed media on 16×20 canvas

“Paying it forward” is a popular action that people are doing to help someone else. Instead of waiting for problems to develop, they reach out when they can and do something nice for someone else like paying for a meal, giving them your parking space, letting them go before you in line, allowing someone to merge ahead on the highway.

There are countless ways that you can serve. And in the helping, your own inverted downcast self is pulled from its dark shell and into the light.

2 thoughts on “What Better Gift than the Gift of Self

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