Dear Diary: The Ultimate Gift . . .

Love_Text with butterflies

I recently had the opportunity to watch the movie “The Ultimate Gift” again. The movie centres around answering the question “What is the relationship between wealth and happiness?” The question is answered through twelve tasks called “gifts”, each challenging the main character in an improbable way, in the end, changing him (as a person) forever. By completing the tasks set out for him, the main character changes his perspective on life and money, improving and becoming a better man and receiving the ultimate gift.

The twelve “gifts” were as follows:
• Work
• Money
• Friends
• Learning
• Problems
• Family
• Laughter
• Dreams
• Giving
• Gratitude
• A Day
• Love

This got me thinking about my own life.

• How many of these gifts have I had in my life and what have I done with the gifts?
• Have I used my gifts wisely?
• Which of the gifts do I still need to work on?
• How do these gifts (used or unused) affect my future?

The gift of Work – I have been blessed to be permanently employed for most of my life. On the few occasions I was without paid employment, I was able to either volunteer my services or be employed on a casual basis so I’ve not really known what it feels like to sit at home for months or years without employment. This is a blessing for sure.

The gift of Money – Because I have been employed for most of my working life I have never really been without money. Yes, I’m always short of money and always looking for ways to earn more, but I’ve truly been blessed by always being able to pay my way and never have any outstanding debts.

The gift of Friends – I’ve been a loner for most of my life so I don’t have a big circle of friends. I have many acquaintances and many people know me but I only really have a handful of true friends who have stood by me through dark and sunny days. I feel more blessed having a handful of good friends than to have a huge network who don’t really care.

The gift of Learning – I hated going to school but always had an insatiable need for learning. As an only child (until the age of 14) and with very few friends, I used every opportunity I had to learn by observing people wherever I went. This insatiable need to learn turned me into a very observant person. Even now, as an adult, I notice the little things that others don’t see. I’ve learnt more from the university of life than I ever learnt in school.

The gift of Problems – As an only child in a family where both parents worked full time, I had to learn to solve my own problems from a very early age. I’ve grown into an adult with great problem solving skills as a result of this and am a problem solver and “fixer” for many.

The gift of Family – On my dad’s side, I come from a huge family, my mother’s side being about half the size of my dad’s family. A very dysfunctional family (more dysfunctional on my dad’s side than my mom’s side) but a reasonably happy one. To the outside world, I have the “perfect” family, in reality, this is debatable. My dad was abusive and mom finally divorced him after 38 years of marriage. I have had absolutely no contact with my dad for the last 14 years, but that is fine. My father was physically present in our home but never emotionally or psychologically present, so I’m fine with him not being around now. I’ve coped on my own for most of my life so there is no reason to miss him now.

The gift of Laughter – I have been blessed with a mom who has an awesome sense of humour (thanks to her mother who had one too). When we were home alone (my dad worked shifts), we laughed all the time. My mom would see funny shaped clouds in the sky, always saw the bright side of anything no matter how dark the situation was. We did not laugh much when my dad was home. He ruled with an iron fist and whenever he saw mom or me laughing or having fun, he would do something to ruin the mood – would not be happy until one of us ended up crying so there was never much laughter in our house when he was around. With mom working full time, I also did not spend much time alone with her either but fortunately spent my school holidays at my grandparents house (mom’s parents) so I could laugh as much as I wanted, which was pretty much all the time.

The gift of Dreams – yes, I have had many dreams in my lifetime. I dreamed of becoming a medical doctor because my passion has always been to help people. This dream was destroyed at the age of 6 when my dad asked me “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I very proudly announced “a doctor” and he destroyed that dream immediately by letting me know that it was a “thankless job” and anyway, with “your disability” you would never be able to be on your feet for 12 hours straight. Next, I wanted to be a pilot but again, my dad very promptly informed me that because of my disability, I would not be able to get in and out of the cockpit – there went that dream too. Other dreams came and went throughout my lifetime. My passion and desire to help people and to make a difference has never waned, and a few years ago I realised that I had a passion for the field of Psychology. I completed my High School education via correspondence school and signed up for University (via correspondence) so I could continue working full time to pay for my studies. By the time I entered my third year of Psychology, my direction changed and although still very keen on Psychology, I decided to pursue the field of Forensic Psychology (Criminology) instead. This is the dream I am currently pursuing.

The gift of Giving – my generosity knows no bounds. I am always looking for ways to give (firstly and primarily) within my family circle and then to extended family and friends. I try to make each birthday and Christmas extra special. I try to always find ways of making the celebration something “different”. When a special occasion approaches, I always ask myself, “what can I do to make this different/special?”

The gift of Gratitude – I have so much to be grateful for. My life, my family, overcoming challenges in spite of my physical disability (like being separated from my parents at an early age to be hospitalised) and the challenges related to the recovery after all the surgery I’ve had over the years. Grateful for overcoming some very trying times in my life – the death of my grandmother whom I loved dearly when I was 11 years of age, the death of my first sister when I was 13 years of age. Grateful for my sister who was born when I was 14 years of age. Grateful for surviving the Massacre at our church in 1992 and the trauma associated with this event. I’m grateful for surviving the time when I found myself unemployed at the same time when my sister wanted to get married and needed me to pay for the wedding, my car died and my mother deciding to divorce my father meant that I was required to take over the role as breadwinner i.e. I needed to find us a house to live (because the family home had to be sold because my parents were married in Community of Property). A day before my 50th birthday recently, we were told that my mom’s cancer is now stage 4 and there is nothing more they can do for her. It’s a very aggressive kind of cancer so when the deterioration starts, it will go quickly. I survived all this, and I am extremely grateful.

The gift of A Day – what would be the perfect day for me? I don’t know. I’ve not had much time to think about this. I’ve been too busy getting on with life that I’ve not had time to think about this question. For now, spending precious, quality time with my immediate family is enough for me. Maybe sometime in the future, I will re-look at this question.

The gift of LOVE (the ultimate gift) – I have been surrounded by love my whole life. My dad, in spite of not being a very affectionate person and not being emotionally present in our lives, had a warped sense of what love is and never knew how to show love. For him, love was about buying material things. He always made sure we had everything we needed (materially) – that was his way of showing love. My mom never knew how to show love either – was never a very affectionate person so it was rather difficult to feel the warm and fuzzy kind of love in our home, but I always knew I was loved. My grandparents (mom’s parents) always showered me with love and so did mom’s family. Dad’s family were never warm and affectionate, but I always knew I was loved. Yes, I have been surrounded by love my whole life.

So, how many of these gifts have I had in my life and what have I done with the gifts? Have I used my gifts wisely? Which of the gifts do I still need to work on and how will these gifts (used or unused) impact on my future?

I will end with a few quotes from the movie . . .
• You don’t begin to live until you’ve lost everything
• Every happening great or small is a parable by which God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message
• Our lives should be lived not avoiding problems but welcoming them as challenges that will strengthen us so that we will be victorious in the future
• Do you know God paints every colour on a butterfly with His finger?
• Any process worth going through will get tougher before it gets easier. That’s what makes learning a gift, even if pain is your teacher
• Neither hate nor love thy life, but what thou lives, live well however long or short may the heavens permit
• My dream was a perfect day, and I’m just finishing it. My dream is to be with people I love, that love each other, that love me.

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