A "Portion Of Thyself"
The True and Most Precious Gift
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote with so much insight and so artfully and so accurately about so many things. In his essay, Gifts, published in 1844, he advised and reflected thus:
Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to its primary basis, when a man’s biography in conveyed in his gift, and every man’s wealth is an index of his merit. But it is a cold, lifeless business when you go to the shops to buy me something, which does not represent your life, but a goldsmith’s.
Smart guy, that Emerson. He also had his values and priorities in order.
The most valuable and truest expressions of love are still given in our labor and in that which is a “portion of thyself.” We know that. But long ago pure virtue and the sacred character of Christmas were buried in heaps of money, advertising, cars, jewelry, computers, clothes, big screen TVs, toys, and an endless tumble and piling of the material.
Christmastime is, for people in Easton, like it is for most people anywhere in our nation, a happy period of uplift and smiles and anticipation.
Yet here in town, a beautiful and wonderful community -- which is also a locus and tightly bunched scrum of building the bigger house, sharing how much you paid for the new counters and cabinets, having the wider and greener lawn, having the glitzier and better equipped luxury SUV, buying the second home in Vermont, the Cape or in Florida – there must be a lot of angst and stress to accompany the joy.
So much competition for adults to buy expensive and nice – and, as a partial consequence, kids have a good portion of what should be the most important and enduring parts of Christmas tossed this way and that way, and beyond reach.
Christmas Day will not long commence and the mobile phones and computers will be crackling and transmitting the noise and bits and bytes that describe how big a score one received.
Yet, if you look around in the community, you will see the gifts which are the result of those who “bleed” for Easton. Sure, money is important, especially when it is earned through hard and honest work, and when parting with it is a true personal sacrifice.
Still, there is so much good here that has been purchased primarily with giving of one’s self.
Easton has a rich and vibrant culture of community and civic activism. I mean, take your pick – the Easton Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Easton American Legion Post 7, the Easton Garden Club, the Easton Lions Club, Friends of the Ames Free Library, Easton Women of Today, the Natural Resources Trust of Easton, various boosters clubs for high school sports teams … and on and on.
Our houses of worship are places in which people hear the Word of God, and from which people go forth to do God's Work.
You have hundreds of men and women in town who make our youth sports leagues work, through coaching, fundraising, and helping to organize and run games and tournaments. People volunteer and give extensively of themselves in serving on various civic boards.
Elected officials in town give hour after hour of service.
When I was in high school, the Old Fire Station on Sullivan Avenue was just that, an old fire station, and not much more. It would have stayed just an old fire station, and not become what is today, the home of a regional cultural treasure, the Children’s Museum in Easton, without the passion and drive of four young mothers who in 1986 who took on the project of purchasing and redeveloping the building into a place where children could receive hands-on educational and personal enrichment.
Yes, the museum is an example of a gift that is a “portion of thyself.”
Sure, you can find this type of activism in almost any town or city. But I truly believe that in Easton we have it going on with particularly strong energy and commitment.
Once more, we know it, and are many are all in to maintaining it.
It is well known among Massachusetts high school coaches and administrators, and those in the media who cover prep sports, that Oliver Ames High School fans “travel well,” meaning that when the Tigers are on the road, no matter the sport, you can expect for their fans to be at the event in healthy numbers.
It is this day in and day out giving, and devotion and caring, that is fundamental to making Easton such a great place to live.
And in the final and eternal analysis, these gifts are, with a nod again to Mr. Emerson – a “portion of thyself” – the most important and blessed gifts of all.