Seeds that grow

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spoof space by steele coddingtonMerry Christmas. I've mentioned previously a brief incident around Christmas time several years ago. I'd like to present it to you in the form of a gift. The incident was remarkable because a complete stranger gave it to me in the same way ... as a gift and thanked me for accepting it. To some it might be just a thoughtful gesture. But a gift's value is established by what it means to the recipient. A personal effort to bring even a scintilla of joy to another person is, in my opinion, an expression of grace. So ... recounting that incident in this particular season seems timely, if for no other reason than it can also be duplicated by anyone, with joyful consequences, to whatever degree one might like to invest in reaching out with a hope for minor miracles.

The incident involved an elderly gentleman who approached my wife and me while we were enjoying a coffee in a local Starbucks. When he reached us, the warmth of his smile was enough to make us greet him with our own happy faces. He wished us happiness and thanked us for our smiles, which he described as our gift to him, and explained his mission: "Each day I try to project a sincere wish for happiness to two people I've never met before, hoping they might accept my smile and interest as a gift from me. When they return a happy grin I know I've succeeded and that is their gift to me." He thanked us for the gift and as he walked away, I'm sure there was a small angel guiding his footsteps.

Hopefully, the significance is small gifts could be the seeds that bring magical consequences. Maybe that is how the heart of Evangelism becomes the blessing of "Good News," or the awakening of spirituality. It's interesting to know that even great scholars and philosophers recognize, on an intellectual level, that caring about someone else is as simple as just reaching out.

One of the century's great intellects and philosophers from France, Gabriel Marcel, is mentioned with respect and affection by America's own great moral philosopher, theologian and proponent of democratic capitalism, Michael Novak, in his new book Writing From Left to Right. He describes Marcel and his lectures at Harvard on Human Dignity, as focused on his life long interest in the distinction of "a person" instead of an "an individual." He expresses the belief that philosophy's inquiry is in the mystery of "a person," and the fundamental importance of person to person communication. The value of daily experience becoming meaningful by recognizing the "presence" of other "persons" – not just accepting a passing inattentive moment, but a realization that an "it" becomes enriched only when "it" becomes a "thou."

The relevance of outreach in the realm of intellectual discourse is interesting, but in a world of increasing disinterest in "thou," it takes a caring heart to deliver a message that says, "I have a gift for you." Analogies abound, from tiny acorns to mighty oaks, but nothing can quite compare with the gift of Christmas and the message of Christ whose welcome has echoed for centuries: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."