Unlike Madonna, I am not a Material Girl. Well, not completely anyway. I live in one of the most affluent parts of the United States and, while I see a lot more sparkle, I don’t see any more happiness. I mean real, soulful happiness. Fancy cars, tailored boobs and manicured noses are common, and general conversation leans toward the vapid; ‘he said, she said.’ Often times, love is represented as a brand new BMW. Needless to say ‘the boys with cold hard cash’ are usually NOT my Mr. Right. At least, they ‘re not my Mr Right if that’s all they’re offering.
I am clear that money is necessary in life, but not essential for love or happiness. But, you don’t need me to tell you, just read the news. We are in an age where we have enjoyed one of the wealthiest periods in history and yet divorce rates are the highest they’ve ever been, and the rate of prescription drug use is at an all time high. Things don’t match up the way they are ‘supposed’ too.
The wealth in love, for me, is in action – gestures. It can include material things, no doubt, but if it does I think it’s in the giving of the least obvious thing, or in the least obvious way, that has the most heart. A gesture signals listening, and observation. In a sense, it offers recognition – which, to me, is the epicenter of true love.
For my 30th birthday, my sister hand-made a cook book as my gift. She stitched together scraps of old fabric and covered a little folder and then pulled together all of the recipes from our favorite dishes as kids. Classic recipes from our favorite people and signature dishes from the newer people in our life, and put it all together. We both love to cook, she especially, and while I have such love for this cookbook – I have more love for the time she took to make it and then send it over to me (from Australia!). The love was in the gesture.
For that same birthday, my mother presented me with a quilt. A king sized, handmade quilt, that she made. No matter how high the thread count is on my Egyptian cotton sheets, this quilt is still the most luxurious item on my bed.
Of course, not every one has tendencies to sit and make things, this is not the point I am trying to make. A gesture of recognition has creativity involved, for sure, but not necessarily the Martha Stewart kind. I just happen to come from a long lineage of women who love to spend their time with thread. But often times, the most loving thing you can do is use the talent you have, to show love.
My Life Coach, and beautiful friend, Karen Jacobsen wrote a song for her husband and sang it after giving a sweet speech. This is not a video of her singing at the actual wedding, but of another performance of the song.
My best friend surprised her husband with a visit from his best friend. She organized and paid for his best friend to fly in from another state, mid week and for no particular reason but simply because she knew that it would feed his soul. Many years ago my then boyfriend took me on a day trip along the coast for my birthday. As the afternoon started to wind down, he suggested the we keep driving east and find a place to bed for the night. After I told him that I had to work the next day he announced “no you don’t” and proceeded to tell me that he had organized for my co-worker to cover my shift. After I announced I didn’t pack a bag he said ” but I did” and presented me with a fully packed bag with all the clothes and outfits that he knew were my favorite, plus a few added items he had bought for me.
Another boyfriend on his way to visit me, after being at the mercy of flight delays and eventual cancellation made a gesture that said volumes at the time. I received a text from him that said ‘flight cancelled’, I was on my way to pick him up at the airport. Without knowing what to do next, I then received another text “on a train”. The gesture being in his willingness and commitment to arrive.
A friend was having her boyfriend over for dinner one night – a regular affair for the two of them. He would arrive after work and she would have cooked him a sweet meal. Only this time when he arrived at her door there was a note for him to follow the rose petals around to the back of the house and down the pathway. There, waiting for him was a little table and the dinner she had cooked and an inflatable mattress, which they slept on that night under the stars, in the summer evening.
One evening, mid week, I was at Trader Joes picking up some groceries and looking very forlorn since I had just broken up with my boyfriend. After paying my total the young guy at the register excused himself for a moment and came back with a small bouquet of flowers and presented them to me.
And of flowers?! Sometimes I think they are nature’s way of showing us the magic in the world. I don’t need fancy flower arrangements and expensive or elaborate bouquets but I appreciate a man who brings and offers flowers. Actually, I appreciate anyone who brings flowers – whether from a florist or their own garden.
There is a man at our yoga studio who brings freshly cut flowers from his garden every week as an offering. A gesture of appreciation for the love of his practice.
Earlier last year, while sitting at my local cafe, one of the older male patrons (who has often expressed a slight amorous affection for me) said he liked to bring women just one flower. As he presented the flower he would tell them that it was the most exotic flower, from a hard to find place….even if it was simply a rose. “An exotic flower for an exotic woman” he said. I told him I liked his work, he told me he was going to bring me an exotic flower.
The next week, I strolled into my local cafe once again, ordered my regular breakfast with a latte and after taking my order the waiter gestured behind him at a little flower sitting in a small champagne glass “for you, from George” he said. Sweet, I thought.
The following week, another latte and another flower. Another flower followed the week after that, and then another, and then another. In fact, every week for at least 8 months a flower showed up behind the bar for me. Sometimes it was a rose, other times a common garden variety marigold but it didn’t matter the type of flower, it was the gesture which became important. It was the gesture which offered recognition. I never took that for granted.
Some of these are grand gestures, for sure. Some of the most important gestures, of course, are hidden in the mundane. In any relationship (romantic, familial or friendly) it’s often the gestures that make life easier for the person you’re with, that are the most important. I think Steve Carell says it perfectly here:
That said, here is a link to website peppered with stories of amazing gestures from ordinary people
I’ll leave you with this, perhaps one of the grandest gestures, one from the heart. It’s not a Disneyland flash mob proposal, or a note written in the sky. It is a video tribute to a wife on her birthday by her husband, who was fighting cancer. He passed away only recently but this is now left for her.