Part of a Set

In the next several months, our family hopes to move. Not to another city but just to a different house. Less house, more land, as I have been explaining when describing what we want in our next home. Our current place is not large by middle-class, suburban, North American standards (less than 1500 square feet). But this place boasts 2 and 1/2 bathrooms–and I maintain that 4 people do not need 3 potties.

In preparation for selling our place, we must first, you know, prepare it (that’s kind of what ‘preparation’ means, right?) One part of the prep work involves purging–which makes my husband twitch but makes me dance with glee. So moving toward that end, I started sorting through our assortment of Christmas ornaments.

I didn’t get far before I shelved the project for other tasks, but, before I did, one of the ornaments (actually the sticker on it) caught my eye. The little label read, “Individual unit is part of a set.”

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That little nutcracker on his own? Cute, decorative, ornate. But with the whole set? He has more of a purpose, more of a role to fill. Set him out on his own, and he looks nice. But include him as part of the greater whole, and I remark,”Oh! So THAT’S how it’s supposed to look!”

I feel the same about us humans–who we’re really created to be shows up better in community. When our “individual unit” lives fully in our “set.”

Over the past year or so, I have observed this firsthand in a way that transferred this concept from my head to my heart.

For the past few years, I have chosen a word of the year (in lieu of New Year’s resolutions). Last year, I selected the word “gift.” To live out this word, I planned to give a gift a day and then write about it in a tiny journal that my friend Cathy gave me. These gifts didn’t need to be presents with shiny wrapping paper and bows attached. They frequently consisted of letting a person in line at the grocery store go ahead of me and my buggy-full of purchases. Or giving a Band-Aid to a child at church who had skinned her knee. Or saving part of my Steak and Shake banana milkshake to share with my husband when he got home from work. I still have room to write in that little journal, and I am still endeavoring to give a gift a day.

Gift journal, held together with a ponytail holder.
Gift journal, held together with a ponytail holder.

Regardless of their manifestations, all these gifts have something in common:  other people. Another individual was the recipient of each of these gifts:  the lady at the store, the little girl at church, my hubs. When I read extra pages at bedtime to my children, my sons are the receivers. When I make a meal for a family with a new baby, those folks (especially the mama) are the ones accepting that gift.

Some of my gifts have involved picking up garbage at a playground while my children swung and climbed or gathering aluminum cans from the sidewalk for recycling. Although not directly, those small acts of service gifted other people, too–with a cleaner playground or a less-polluted neighborhood.

We are all part of a set, even if you don’t have a spouse or children or family close by. Roommates, neighbors, clients, co-workers, friends…all us individuals with a purpose to serve within the set. We all need people to “do for.” Find yours, and do for them.

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