The Invisible Gift

The Invisible Gift

Many seasons ago I was a struggling young adult juggling three jobs and college classes just trying to get home to my family for the holidays. Life, as I recall, kept getting in the way of my travel plans and ultimately, I was not able to get to my parents home until late in the night on Christmas Eve, pulling up to the house long after everyone had gone to bed. It was cold and I was tired so I threw my dirty clothes in the direction of the washing machine, spread my few meager but heartfelt presents under the tree and fell into the bed.

I woke up the next morning to the sounds of what I would swear was a child squealing in delight. Confused because there were no young kids in our family at the time, I got out of the bed to find my mother standing in front of the Christmas Tree, balanced lightly on the balls of her feet, giggling and wiping away tears of joy.

After a moment Mom greeted me as if I had just walked in the door. With a hug that seemed much bigger than the moment, I asked what had inspired such joy in her. Mom just said “thank you for the gift of childhood wonder again.”

After some more hugs, laughs, and perhaps a bit of coffee, Mom shared that waking up on Christmas morning and finding presents that had magically appeared under the tree rushed her back to her childhood. That morning didn’t just remind her of the magic in the world, it pulled the magic directly from her heart and lit up her whole world.

The Holiday Season is stressful for me. I am easily overwhelmed with the social pressure to find “the perfect gift.”. I struggle against feeling inadequate and small. The crowds, competition for “hot” items, and relentless consumerism all push me far away from anything resembling a holiday spirit. I’m not exactly Scrooge, but I’m definitely a long way from being Frosty. This season calls on me to employ every tool and practice of mindfulness and self-care to remain centered, present, and generous of spirit.

When it all begins to feel too much I return to that Christmas and the Invisible Gift that I didn’t even know I gave. And truth be told, I don’t recall what was wrapped in any of those actual boxes on that Christmas many years ago. And that also makes me smile, because lifting the heart of another was a gift for me as well.


  1. John Guy

    Dear Sean – When I heard the news you were going to work for UUA in Boston as part of leaving UUCC , my good side said if UUCC has to lose him thank goodness UUism in the larger domain continues to benefit from all your skills and commitment. You have set UUCC on a path to building back better that will continue even after your departure. Thank you . Thank you. Thank you , John Guy

    PS Please make sure you invite Rev Richard Nugent to relate his two years as Interim Minister at UUCC. No doubt you will make him light up about his fulfilling tenure here.

  2. Kathy Parker

    What a lovely story about the Christmas morning your mother found your gifts under the tree. A precious memory for all time — and a sign that the “perfect gift” is not a material thing we buy. Rather, it is a sharing of time and presence with those we love. We will indeed miss you, Sean. But we wish you the very best as you move ahead. Kathy

  3. Linda Linton

    Sean – I was very moved by your memory. What an important reminder of how we deeply we can unknowingly touch one another.
    You will be missed. Thank you for sharing yourself and your talents with us.

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