What do to when you like the friend but not the gift

     (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-165510479/stock-photo-a-man-opening-christmas-presents-to-discover-he-got-a-christmas-themed-jumper-to-go-along-with-the.html'>Ugly sweater</a> image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

    (Ugly sweater image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

    Small gifts given in a meaningful way are so much larger than big, expensive gifts given without much thought. I cherish these “small” tokens of generosity and value the love and friendship they represent.

    In my jewel box rests a thin, gold bracelet, a gift from a lover who gave it to me on my 60th birthday. When I wear it, I feel sexy, because he was eight years younger than me, and I felt so excited to have a younger man find me attractive. So even though I am a silver-loving Sagittarian, I wear Jimmy’s bracelet because it reminds me that you are never to old to fall in love.

    Hanging over my mirror is a silver shawl with long, silvery fringe. It looks like something that might have been draped over piano bars in the roaring ’20s. It’s almost tacky! Sometimes I dance to Rod Stewart, my favorite rock singer with his husky voice, with nothing more than this shawl wrapped around my body. I love it, because it was a gift from a long-ago friend named Marti, who died from cancer. I like having it to remind me that friendships come and go, but they never really disappear from your heart.

    Near my bedroom window is a little space where I sit to meditate. I light a candle in a black candlestick that was a gift from my friend Molly one New Year’s Eve to usher in the new year on a spiritual note. Whenever I light the candle, I feel Molly’s warm presence.

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    I have a short, black jacket with zippers on the sleeves and front. My older daughter gave it to me because she said I needed something chic. On the front I have a silver pin in the shape of a plate with utensils, a gift from my faraway friend Joanne. When I wear the coat and pin, I feel loved by these gifts.

    Sitting on a shelf with a small lamp is a beautiful glass giraffe in flight, a birthday present from my youngest daughter. She knows I love giraffes, and this one is my favorite of all the 30-plus I have scattered throughout the apartment.

    When I was single, my son would buy me tickets to fly to San Francisco to see him. It allowed me to visit more often than I could afford on my own. This gift was especially important, because we live on opposites sides of the country, and as I fly, I feel enveloped by his generosity.

    Love and friendships are punctuated by gifts from the heart. My gold bracelet might well be part of the Crown Jewels, because, when I wear it, I feel like a sexy queen. When I drape my silver shawl around my nude body, I imagine myself as a nymph dancing by the light of the moon, covered by Marti’s generosity. Each time I use Molly’s candlestick to light a candle, I feel warmed by its glow, knowing I can just close my eyes to feel her presence. My jacket and pin, the glass giraffe, the airline tickets are all relatively small gifts in size, but enormous in meaning

    Learning to accept gifts from the heart has also been a lesson in humility, or as Ilyana Vanzant notes in her amazing book, In the Meantime, “To receive means recognizing that everything that comes to you is a reflection of what you deserve. Water rises to its own level, and so does love.”

    The next time you receive a gift from a loved one, honor it even if you don’t especially like it. Besides, it might grow on you, like moss. The old saying, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” might have significance after all. Receive it with the love you deserve. Enjoy what you receive, and eventually you may receive what you enjoy.

    International Friendship Day, literally a Hallmark Holiday, is Sunday, Aug. 2.

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