The Greatest Gift of All
written by Rev Gary Heard

The newspaper is filled with financial news: of housing prices that have risen by 25% over the past 18 months, of rising inflation and interest rates, of people making (or losing) wealth through various investment schemes. If you look a little further afield you will find invitations to participate in Tattslotto draws (win $40 million in one draw!), betting opportunities of a staggering variety (one London man bet that the world would end by the year 2000 at odds of one million to 1!), and various other ‘activities’ designed to alleviate financial worries. The underlying value seems to be that you can buy happiness.

But is it true?

The happiest people I have ever met have been those who had the least of all. I found them to be generous to a fault, and able to celebrate with an enviable sense of abandon. In the West, statisticians and surveys indicate that despite the manifold increase in average wealth in the West, this present generation exhibits a lower level of satisfaction with life, and higher instances of stress than earlier generations. The pressure to have ever more creates an inherent dissatisfaction with the present. We spend so much time keeping up with the mythical Joneses that we never fully appreciate what is already ours.

And yet…

It is without a doubt that the most valuable things in life cannot be possessed. They are only found in the act of giving them away. We find love by giving it to others, or be receiving it from another, never by holding on tightly to it. Friendship is found as we seek to be a friend, as we receive the friendship that is offered, but never by holding on tightly and exclusively to a friend. Happiness is found by giving it to others, by receiving it as a gift to be cherished for its experience, not to be bottled and sold. It is this way with the most valuable things in life: they cannot be owned or controlled, but are brought into being in the act of sharing them with others. When we seek to control them, we find them as elusive as the wind. When we seek to create them for others, we find a richness and depth beyond imagining. Our “normal” world has everything upside down.

I have been reminded of this truth over recent days as I have reflected on the gift of life which Mark Johnston has been. By many standards, Mark was one of the people who get overlooked. Yet the contribution he made to many lives is significant. He ever sought to build community, to share happiness, to build relationships. His focus not on himself, but others, he gave a gift most precious, for which he will be deeply missed.

It reminds of the one who “came not to be served, but to serve”. An economic rationalists nightmare, but the greatest gift of all.

April 27, 2008
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