26 Oct Gifts of Love
You Deserve To Live An Extraordinary Life
When I was around eight years old my family and I lived in Brooklyn, NY near the Navy Yard. It was not the best of neighborhoods and the demographics changed rapidly. It was once a charming neighborhood made up of mostly Italian and Jewish families; I still remember how our apartment building would be filled with the comforting aromas of garlic, pasta, meat balls and olive oil intermingled with matzo ball soup and boiled chickens. But the streets began to take on a different flavor; gangs became rampant and fights often broke out on outlying streets. We all began to feel the rift between our Italian/Jewish neighborhood and the emerging black neighborhoods, and the once garlicy atmosphere was soon inundated with prejudice, fear, and mistrust.
Shortly before our family left our Brooklyn origins (and embarked on a journey to a foreign country called New Jersey), I went out shopping for a gift for my mother. Mom always seemed besieged with anxiety and irritation. She expressed her frustrations with a loud and angry voice, one that was frequently directed at my father, brother and myself. I had little understanding about the cause of her outbursts, but I felt compassionate about her emotional pain. She may have been terrified by the changes on the horizon, or perhaps it was the males in our family who were causing her distress. For an eight year old kid, it really did not matter; the bottom line was that mom was worried and we were all impacted by her emotional outbursts.
I decided to do something to allay her distress, so I went out shopping for a purchase that might calm her down. “Should it be a piece of clothing?”, I wondered, “or perhaps some jewelry?” Given that my financial resources as an eight-year-old were somewhat limited, I gravitated toward the grocery store. I had a total of five dollars, and at that time that could buy a lot of food. I actually came back home with eight packages brimming with food. Anticipating my mother’s delight and appreciation, I was shocked by her anger and tears when she admonished me for my inappropriate behavior. She screamed that she did not need my help and that she was quite capable of taking care of her family. To say the least, I felt deeply hurt and shamed. I also concluded that my mom was really a jerk!
A couple of days ago, a long time patient of mine entered my office with several unusual packages containing a score of the best toilet tissues and about 10 rolls of Scott Towels. He broke out into a broad smile as he dropped them on the floor with a loud thud! He explained to me that he had recently acquired hundreds of cartons of tissues and towels; he appeared delighted to be presenting me with a small portion of his newly acquired riches. He was traveling around giving such gifts to people who were special to him, including me as his therapist. He still had a store of almost ten years’ worth of such products in his warehouse, and he was on a mission to dispense some joy to those he felt close to.
I felt deeply touched by his caring gesture and I readily accepted the gift with much appreciation. We spent most of our session talking about his growing awareness of generosity and appreciation toward others. His history was one of great hurt, betrayal and abandonment in his family and he had spent a lifetime combating everyone around him in an attempt to protect himself from additional harm. His gift to me was a loving gesture of appreciation, connection and joy. He had come a long way from the streets of battle, hatred and distrust into a neighborhood of tenderness, caring and generosity.
Later that night I reflected back on my early childhood and my loving gesture toward my mom. Yes, I had felt deeply hurt by her retorts and anger and sought the relief of my bed, comic books and candy bars. They gave me some immediate relief but no real remedy for my broken heart. But my client’s recent generosity and innocent gift seemed to help heal that long ago repressed pain. I had been able to appreciate the kindness and generosity that his gift represented in a way that my mother had been unable to all those years ago. I had not thought about that forgotten emotional memory for over 60 years. It took a simple gesture of appreciation, kindness and love from him to permanently heal that long suffering pain.
I guess the point is that healing comes in many different, and often unexpected forms. Typically, we therapists help bring healing to our clients, but sometimes, an unexpected experience reverses that typical course of events. I thank you, my caring patient, for healing this hole in my heart that I had long forgotten but that was still residing deep in my unconscious.
And we can definitely use the toilet tissues.