I’ve seen beauty.
I saw it in an elderly couple who stood with grace beside their daughter’s casket. They had fed her, dressed her, cared for her, loved her every moment since an accident had left her disabled. That accident had happened 39 years before.
I had only known their daughter as someone whose eyes sparkled, but who couldn’t speak and whose body didn’t move like ours. She was serene as she lay at rest. Her parents, whose age had meant increased health concerns of their own, never decreased in their loving care. They were beautiful. Their example is a gift.
I saw beauty in the women who sat on the floor wrapping gifts for the elderly in their care, some of whom wouldn’t recognize the gift at all. There was beauty in their smiles, their enthusiasm for the task at hand, their appreciation for those who helped bring it all about.
There was beauty in the tears that came to two sisters when they talked of the road ahead. One would donate life-giving bone marrow to save the other. Both would be sick, one for much longer and at much greater risk. Both felt faith in the future. Both knew the gift they were giving and receiving was one of love.
It is a gift to earn the smile of a child. Though the smiles can be hesitant at first, when the shyness turns to careful acceptance and warmth, everything is all right with the world.
It is a gift to receive a compliment sincerely given. It is a gift to have a compliment graciously received.
It is a gift to have someone share something of his or her life with you. It is a gift to have someone care enough to listen of yours.
It is a gift to be touched by an emotional song. It is a gift to be inspired by a setting sun.
You don’t have to wait to open the packages wrapped with ribbons and tucked under the tree for gifts. Some gifts jump out and grab you when you’re just getting out of bed and spy the moon out the window and realize how amazing it is.
Some gifts may be sights, some may be feelings.
Some gifts may be friendships, others may, again, be sacrifices.
It is sacrifice that I bear tribute to today. And those who offer it. The couple that cares for their daughter. The sister that offers her blood to her sister.
A young married woman going through morning sickness first and more discomforts later to bring life into the world, knowing that more sacrifices will follow.
Holiday tales that always tug at the heart strings include the one about the little boy who got up early to save his father the chore of milking the cows, time and effort being the only sacrifice he could offer.
A favorite is the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” story of George Bailey, who sacrificed for his brother, for his father, for his father’s dream, until in his own need, others sacrificed for him.
But the sweetest by far, is the beautifully told tale of the young couple in O. Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi.” They each had only one thing of value. They each, independently, gave it up for love of the other.
Sacrifice, in fact, is how the story that began on the first Christmas ends.
Sacrifice is beautiful when lovingly, selflessly given.
Thank you to those who inspire us all by giving it. And God bless.