When Giving is All We Have

“This month, we bring out our decorations and breathe new life into old traditions while creating brand-new customs. I think about verses that are important to me. Thanks to our poet friend Jan Falls, this poem is one of my newer traditions. I doubt the poet wrote this for the “giving season,” but I find it perfect and would like to share it with you again.

When Giving is All We Have by Alberto Rios

One river gives
Its journey to the next


We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

When Giving is All We Have


is an honourable and important tradition across the globe, and yes, it is commercialized. However, we mustn’t let commercial interests make us cynical. Let’s enjoy our gift-gifting however we see fit and pass on beautiful things that others might love, along with brand-new things. More and more people are making things, which I admire, although I am not good at it yet.  The bottom line is to do what is important to you however you choose. And pay no attention to the siren call to buy more of “the right” stuff – the perfect gift! Personally, I love handwritten and handmade cards, and I keep them forever. Furthurmore, I love the gift of stillness that often settles for a few moments when we stop to admire the beauty that catches our attention.

This  Sunday, my small Ottawa family will have our third or maybe fourth annual book exchange. A gentle evening where we exchange books we bought for each other (by previously drawing names) and sit by the fire for a couple of hours and read together, with our favourite chocolates close at hand. Oh yes, a glass of wine and hot chocolate for the children. It is our adaptation of the Icelandic tradition of jólabókaflóð . We love it.

Speaking of family, I would be remiss not to republish another favourite paragraph of mine by C.S. Lewis on this subject:


Affection is the humblest love-it gives itself no airs. It lives with private things: soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, the thump of a sleepy dog’s tail on the kitchen floor. The glory of affection is that it can unite those who are not “made for each other,” people who, if not put down by fate in the same household or community, would have nothing to do with one another.

Affection broadens our minds: of all natural loves, it teaches us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who ‘happen to be there.’

Made for us? Thank God, no. They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.”  C S Lewis

This particular excerpt from CS Lewis has always appealed to me. I suppose it represents what I find in my own large, extended and crazy family. A motley crew for whom I have the greatest love and affection and I am also aware that they have affection for me. How lucky is that?


In an era of continual judgment about everyone’s shortcomings, I have come to value the human capacity to be able to tolerate each other’s foibles,  blind spots,  and just plain old-fashioned mistakes. Along with all the beautiful things we love about each other, the “whole catastrophe” makes up our lives.

It is the same with friends – we will all disappoint each other from time to time. It can’t be helped. Life is not about ensuring that everything is designed perfectly just for me, or you, or the next person.  Like death, we all know disappointment will happen.  It can not be avoided. We are human beings. Perfectly imperfect.


is one of my favourite words. It rises to the top of my list every year in December, as this season prompts so many memories of joys and sorrows. Affection for all the perfectly imperfect people who have been part of my life and a humble affection for my own humanity. We are all in this together, so let’s make the most of it.

May you create moments of enjoyment amid giving and receiving and experience affection every ordinary day.

“I don’t think I’ll last forever,” said Peach.

“That’s okay,” said Blue. “Not many folks do.

But until then, you have me, and I have you.”

-Peach and Blue, by Sarah S. Kilborne, 1994


Thank you for taking the time to read my weekly blog posts. I feel very fortunate to share my blog with each of you. May you have what you need this December, and may you retain some of the sparkle you had as a child, wide-eyed with the wonder of it all. See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy

12 replies
  1. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    Thank you so much for your emails. Your messages are profound but also ordinary, in the best way. Quietly reassuring, not lofty, easy to put into practice, realistic. Kind of like the paragraph from CS Lewis. I have my surgery on the 18th, and your messages have been a source of comfort in the lead up. Wishing you a lovely December.

    • Trudy
      Trudy says:

      Thank you Ellen. Your kind words are deeply appreciated. May your surgery go well tomorrow and may you heal steadily and surely. All of my best wishes coming your way. Warmly, Trudy

  2. Janice+Falls
    Janice+Falls says:

    Dear Trudy, you give because someone gave to you and to me, because giving has changed us – “together we made / something greater from the difference”. many blessings in these dark and cozy times. xoxoxox

  3. Tamara Green
    Tamara Green says:

    Dear Trudy, thank you for your blog messages each week. I scroll through and re read articles, watch the videos, check out the Resources-amazing! reads. I have a room full of books, on shelves and in boxes, memories that cannot be thrown away. It’s my past, present and future. who would enjoy the read as much as me? The thought came to me to wrap my favourites and re-gift to family members as Christmas gifts this year, that way a part of me will be shared. I have spent hours in bookstores and libraries.

    Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas, as you have been a blessing to me all year long.
    Love Tamara

  4. Trudy
    Trudy says:

    Dear Tamara:
    What a lovely delight to read this comment and what a great idea! Sending warm wishes to you both and thank you for your kind words. Have a lovely Christmas. Trudy


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