All we have is a gift


It may be more blessed to give than receive, but receiving is a heck of a lot harder.

We have been on the receiving end of so much goodness since my accident on Memorial Day. That’s when I tripped, shattering my right elbow, injuring nerves and rendering my hand fairly useless. I have been humbled by all who have been kind to me.

From the get-well cards that kept coming, many from people that I never would have expected to send one, to a fund-raiser from Johnny’s cousins — the gifts have been plentiful and appreciated. Bringing food to the house must be an inbred instinct. So many people fed us that I’ve lost count and am afraid I’ll never be able to say thank you properly. Friends got me out of the house for a break for me; family came so Johnny could leave for awhile, in those early days when I needed someone there. I have gotten to know my sisters in a deeper way through this. My physical therapist and the clinic staff have been gentle and kind far beyond what any insurance company requires. Our kids have been wonderful. Mary even cleaned out our refrigerator.

Needing someone is a human trait. Why has it been so hard to accept that? Our American culture prizes strength and independence so much, but our faith is all about community. We need to remember that community matters more than being a cultural success, but alone.


Our grandson Sam, visiting shortly after  I came home from the hospital, said, “Now in no way do I want you to think that I’m glad you got hurt, Grandma, but something good came out of this.” And what would that be, Sam? “You get to stay home!” Yes, and it’s a good thing that I love to be home. It would be hard for people who don’t like it so much. And Sam, modern on-the-go child, said, “Oh, Grandma, everybody wants to stay home.”

Not being on the run has been a true blessing. For the first couple months, as I sat with my arm elevated, I was able to settle into this unexpected time. The monastics have long said “go to your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” I had long considered my marriage and this house my cell. Now it was down to a chair. What a gift to have this time out of time when I really could pray and contemplate and not feel guilty for stopping to do so.

When I finally was able to venture out to attend the Eucharist, I discovered anew how much that means to me. There was a renewed sense of community as I watch those people go up to Communion. I am not alone in my cell, in my chair. In truth, God, above all, has been with me every faltering inch of the way, in the guise of the people in my life, as well as in the silence of prayer.

I was trying to wrap my head around allowing a fund-raiser to be held for me. After listening to me grumble over all this, a friend told me “Be gracious for once. Just say, ‘Thank you.’”

I try, but it is so hard to admit that I can’t do it all alone.

In an extraordinary turn of events, I was able to spend a few days at St. Mary’s, the Benedictine monastery in Rock Island, where I am an oblate, a lay associate. The word oblate comes from the word for gift.  I spoke to Sister Ruth about my confused feelings regarding the fundraiser. How do I let myself accept this gift from others?

She reminded me that it is all gift. Life itself is gift, as is all that is given to us.  Let others gift you, Martha, she said.  By doing that, they receive the gift of having given. We are all in community together.

Deo Gratis.

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