There are certain writers I read again and again. Their wisdom never grows old, it simply shifts in impact as I flow through the phases of my own life. One of the most revisited is the late Henri Nouwen, arguably one of the greatest spiritual writers of my lifetime.
I re-read his beautiful book "Life of the Beloved" this past month and have been so struck by this insight:
"It is the gift of our own life that shines through all we do.
As I grow older, I discover more and more that the greatest gift I have to offer is my own joy of living, my own inner peace, my own silence and solitude, my own sense of well-being.
When I ask myself, 'Who helps me most?" I must answer,
'The one who is willing to share his or her life with me.'"(Henri Nouwen, 1932-1996)
This resonates as I approach the end of my fifth decade on this earth.
The greatest gift I have to offer other people is my life, my time. Not so much my gifts, skills, talents, money, or even my advice. Just my life, open to them like a book.
I have so little to hide these days. So little to prove. I am no longer interested in pretending I am someone I am not. I don't need people to admire or envy me or aspire to be me. Most of that is farce in my mind, anyway.
Now, what I have to offer, as Nouwen says, is my own joy of living, my wobbly sense of peace, the wisdom that flows from times of solitude and deep quiet, my own sense of settledness.
I am happy to sit with people, listen as carefully as I can, make a connection with them from a place of shared human fallibility, and to say "I can't offer much, but I am happy to share my life with you."
More often than not, that simple gift is more than enough.
And the people who offer me this same gift?
The truest of friends.
The best of the best.