Only with gratitude

Janet and her daughters prepare yet another Christmas Eve dinner, 2002

Janet and her daughters prepare yet another Christmas Eve dinner, 2002

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Have you ever had a friend who seemed to give you much more than you gave her or him?  At times, we feel helpless ever to repay such friends for their many acts of love, and simply bask in the joy of their generosity.  Sometimes we’re uncomfortable with this kind of gratitude, because we don’t like to feel as if we “owe” anyone anything.  But in close friendship, such issues vanish into the steadfast understanding that keeps us connected no matter what.

Our friends Janet and C.W. are the friends I am thinking of as I write this.  While we lived in northern California, we spent every single Christmas Eve with them and their family, and many New Years Eves and other holidays as well.  But we never needed an occasion to be invited to their home for Janet’s amazing cooking, which is right up there with my mother’s and grandmother’s in terms of how delicious and well-prepared everything always was.  I often say that the nicest thing anyone can do for me is to cook for me.  Boy, has Janet done that more times than I could count!  And C. W. is no slouch in the kitchen himself!

Janet and C. W. busy in the kitchen, June 2004

Janet and C. W. busy in the kitchen, June 2004

The fifth Christmas Eve we spent with them, Drew said (a bit wistfully) “This is the closest I have ever come to knowing what it’s like to spend Christmas with an extended family every year.”  That first Christmas in Virginia was very hard for us, missing being with our friends for what had come to be a real tradition — to say nothing of going without Janet’s signature brisket that she slow-cooked all night, or her cheesy potatoes or delicious deserts or…

I would guess that Janet had us over at least ten times as often as we had her over, but she never seemed to be counting, so I didn’t.  We liked many of the same places, knew many of the same people, shared lots of joys and sorrows and never kept track of things that didn’t matter.  For that, I’m so grateful, and as Bonhoeffer says, very rich.

After such a feast, who wouldn't be happy?  June 2004

After such a feast, who wouldn’t be happy? June 2004

Who came to your mind as you read this post?  Some of us who are perpetual caregivers rely on people who give us more than we are able to give back to them, and they continue to give with enthusiastic, contagious joy.  I hope you have many such people in your life, filling your days with riches that have nothing to do with money.

One year ago today:

If only we tune in

Update: Prizes and party favors are in the mail!

For details, click on “Thank you!” above.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. I just love this post! Reading it makes me smile at warm memories of generous people and Christmas dinners! Yes, we receive so much.

    • Thank you, Susan. Aren’t Christmas memories wonderful? Some are much happier than others, of course, but the best are full of magic.

      • Yes, I feel all the richer for having such memories, full of magic and love.

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