The single most important gift you’ll give this Christmas season (The Gift of Life Lessons from Italy)
The M & M’s of Life – The single most important gift you’ll give this Christmas season (The Gift of Life Lessons from Italy)
“I just can’t believe I’m actually here.” Strolling the ancient streets of Rome and inhaling the breathtaking beauty of Capri, my 100% Italian husband, Dale, was beside himself. In November, a dream – nearly fifty years in the making – became a reality. Dale and I finally toured Italy.
As our unforgettable trip came to an end, he expressed his gratitude with one simple phrase: “My bucket list is complete.”
I’m sure God has many more adventures ahead for the both of us, but this was a trip we will never forget. It was particularly special considering it was given to us by our church congregation as a gift for 20 years of ministry.
A gift. That one word permeated the entire experience. Italy itself is a gift of the most beautiful art, stunning architecture and prolific history one could possibly imagine. Each destination beckons you to savor her food and embrace her unique culture.
Rome overwhelms the senses: emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. The Coliseum, the Forum, the Trevia Fountain, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, the bustling streets that remind you of New York City…Rome is almost more than you can take in. Our experienced guides in the Vatican City and ancient Rome gave us the invaluable gift of their knowledge and insight, making the most of every moment.
Sorrento is the gift of soaring views of the Mediterranean Sea and the most stunning hand carved inlaid wood you’ve ever laid eyes on.
Capri is the gift of tranquil respite carved into cliffs overlooking the Sea.
Florence is the gift of centuries of magnificent artists, quaint cobblestone streets, homemade pistachio gelato and the best leather in the world.
Venice. Venice is truly one of most captivating places I’ve ever visited and gave me the gift of my most memorable moment. One simply cannot go to Venice without riding the “streets” of her city in a gondola. Precariously perched on a loose wooden chair, I swiveled backwards to capture a video of the Italian singer and accordion players in the gondola next to us. Seconds later I found myself toppled over and face down in the thin, wooden boat, hovering mere inches above the frigid waters. A few bruises and belly-laughs later, I was grateful the boat didn’t tip, landing us all in the water. I still chuckle thinking about the musicians who watched my debacle and never missed a beat.
Italy wasn’t the only gift. The 25 people on our week-long bus tour gifted their unique personalities and abilities.
- Like Jerry, the life of the party who made everyone laugh, and his wife, Denise who made everyone feel significant.
- Or Gloria, married nearly 60 years, who noticed small kindnesses and made me feel special by telling my husband he should marry me again.
- Or Gail who made me feel cared for and captured priceless moments for me on her camera. (Like this one in Venice)
And me? I hope I gave the gift of joy through music.
After dinner one night in Rome, I peeled back the cover of the piano in the hotel lobby and sat to play just for a minute. Two hours later, surrounded by the people on our bus, I finished playing requests from nearly every decade – Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, and even Lionel Ritchie. It was a remarkable night where people from different states, backgrounds, religious affiliation and political persuasion just sat together and enjoyed the gift of music.
I guess this piano thing is my thing. I’ve been given the gift of playing the piano in many different countries. In Israel, I spent the last evening playing the piano in the hotel in Tel Aviv, as our tour waited to leave for the airport. Weary from travel, hymns and worship songs provided a soothing conclusion to a moving spiritual experience.
When we said our final goodbyes to Italy, we flew back through Paris. We spent a day and evening touring the Eiffel Tower, enjoying an intimate dinner, and yes, once again, playing the piano. When I finished “Claire de Lune” by French composer Claude Debussy, unexpected applause filled the air from the guests having dinner in the hotel lobby. Their gratitude caught me off guard.
“Hmmm.” I said to Dale as we walked toward the elevators. “I gave them a gift.”
I’m so grateful for my Life Lessons from Italy. The people, places, and experiences offered what they were uniquely able to give.
What if the single most important gift you can give this Christmas season is what you – uniquely – have to offer.
The gift of…
An endearing spirit
An unexpected kindness
A much needed hug
Music that bridges divides and brings people together
This Christmas season, the perfect gift doesn’t have to come in a box. It doesn’t even have to cost you a dime. The most important gift we can offer is ourselves: our attitudes…our time…our “thing” that makes us unique. This Christmas season, “Make Your Life Matter No Matter What” by giving the one gift anyone can give: the gift of gratitude.
Give the most important gift this year: one that lifts others. One that leaves an imprint. One that makes a lasting impact. One that leaves the world – your world – a better place. Let’s live fully by living gratefully – with open palms and a generous spirit. That’s the starting place for a life that matters. And if you really want to give a gift they’ll never forget, next time you’re in Venice, be sure to find the gondola with the loose, precarious chair.
Make Your Life Matter No Matter What
Leave me a comment! What’s one gift you can give this Christmas season?