Unwrapped gifts make the best presents: The Rockey Road

The radio presets in my car are KDFC, KFOG and KQED. When my children are in the car, they like to scan for their favorite stations. Yesterday, they landed on a station playing holiday music. I quickly saved the station with my No. 4 preset and realized that I had never done that before. I wondered if that was a sign that this holiday season is more meaningful to me than past seasons.

I love giving gifts to show my appreciation, and, admittedly, I love receiving gifts. But the best gifts I’ve received are not wrapped in paper or purchased, they’re not even handmade. They are the gifts that have developed over time, from friends and family; basically, what I’ve learned from their character and compassion. Let me explain.

Today I spent an hour at my friend Vivi’s house. Vivi’s house is not a typical house. It’s a modern design with minimalistic decor. The most striking feature of her home is its openness, physically and lovingly. There are no hallways and very few doors, all of which are hidden pocket doors. With no window coverings, sunlight fills the home. With clean lines and colors eschewing the clutter of material possessions, the eye is allowed to focus on the beauty of the outdoors through the expansive windows and glass doors. From the garden, we collected fruit and dried bean pods for planting in my family’s garden. Vivi’s focus in life is family and sharing, and the mindful architecture of her home reflects that philosophy. It was designed to create an open space conducive to spending family time together rather than apart in divided rooms, and she’ll happily share the most intimate parts of her home for inspiration. Even the garden was thoughtfully designed to yield an abundant crop to nourish and be shared with anyone within reach.

Caring for others and believing that everyone deserves a fair chance are what make my friend Rhonda special. People aren’t perfect, and while it’s hard for most to bite their tongues in awkward situations, Rhonda naturally offers a smile. Without taking sides, she has a way of looking deeper to explain disparity and seeks solutions toward mending. She finds reasons to forgive rather than perpetuate animosity and will bend over backward to bring peace into someone’s life. She is love’s biggest fan and the epitome of forgiveness and understanding.

A few years ago, I went through a rough patch and felt that I wasn’t making the best decisions. Sharing a love of music and a stand in an orchestra gave my friend Corrie and me ample opportunity to spend time together. Hanging out in her garden, picking bean pods and tomatoes while getting much-needed rabbit therapy, allowed me to smooth out my days. I’m endlessly impressed by her compassion for people, animals and plants. Without hesitation, Corrie will throw money in a tip jar or hand a few dollars to someone in the cold on the street. All of her rabbits are rescues, and she nurses them with love through to their last breath. She’s not afraid to speak up for someone if they’ve been unfairly treated. But while I admire this in Corrie, perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from her is perspective. She has taught me that while having compassion for others, you also must do what’s right for yourself rather than what someone else wants from you.

These little gifts I have received from my friends along the way make the holiday season special for me. The festive lights, music and glittery garlands create the ambience, but the people in my life and what makes each one special create the reason for celebration. No, this season isn’t any more meaningful to me, I’m just glad to have good friends. From my family to yours, Happy Holidays.

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