The Art and Faith of Giving

It's the holiday season, that time of the year when everyone's thinking about gifts. Me, too -- but in a slightly different way this year.
12/24/2010 04:16 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

It's the holiday season, that time of the year when everyone's thinking about gifts. Me, too -- but in a slightly different way this year. I've been thinking about this gift I've been given: my ability to write. And an even greater gift: the fact that my words actually got published. And, greater still, the fact that the words I've put on paper touch people to the point that they are inspired to send letters and e-mails telling me so. The fact that my words just might make a difference in the lives of those who read them is beyond anything I've ever imagined -- and the greatest gift I've ever been given.

But there's another aspect of giving which, I'm ashamed to say, I never really paid a whole lot of attention to before, and that is 'what I give to God.' Or, at least, what I should be giving.

Silly thing, but what brought all this to mind was two lines in one of my favorite Christmas songs: "Little Drummer Boy", composed in 1958 by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone. "I have no gift to bring ... That's fit to give the King ..."

I'd like to think that, in a perfect world, we all go around with open, generous hearts and, on a regular basis, share the very best of who and what we are without giving a second thought to what it might cost us. That's what I'd like to think. I'm not sure that's what happens, though. If it was, then I imagine there'd be no need for sermons and songs and cute little sayings in Hallmark greeting cards, all wishing that was true and lamenting it's absence from our lives during the other eleven months of the year.

I just had something light years beyond wonderful happen to me: a short story I wrote has been picked up by a producer and is being made into a 90-minute feature film. Who ever would have thought this possible?? I just hope no-one comes along and wakes me, 'cause if that happens and I find out it's all a dream, I'm going to be really disappointed!

The reason I mention it, though, is that in the congratulatory e-mails I've been getting, people have been saying things like "you deserve it because of all your hard work." Except that's not what it feels like at all. And I think that's the point I want to get across here: that when someone feels as passionately about what they do as I feel about my writing, it's not about "work" at all. I don't ever have to "make" myself write; rather, I have to pull myself away or nothing else would ever get done -- like the laundry or the dishes or the grocery shopping!

After having spoken to some fellow artists, including Brian Miller (an accomplished magician), Shireal Renee (poet, actress and fellow author), and Deborah Robinson (screenwriter), I find I am in excellent company. What they all have in common is that their work, like mine, is not work. It's a passion. It's not something we do, it's what we are. Shireal defined it beautifully when she differentiated between the "reals" and the "unreals": those who experience their art all the way to the core of their beings and have no choice but to express it or they'll just burst, versus those who either dabble in it or talk about it but never quite get around to doing it.

The onset and their ways of experiencing their need and choice to live their art may all have been slightly different, but -- for the true artist -- the end results all seem to be the same: it's not about getting or taking, it's all about giving.

As Shireal and I sat in Jojo's Coffee & Tea, she told me, "People who hate you don't really hate you; they really love what you are but can't seem to figure out how to get there. Those "unreals" want to be around you because, consciously or unconsciously, they want to 'absorb' some of what the "reals" have. "Reals" exude a confidence that the "unreals" don't have, but want." It's not about envy, Shireal insists, it's about emptiness and a desire to fill a void. Those statements were not meant arrogantly; in fact, they were said with humility. I am mightily impressed with this woman who not only will not hate, but looks for -- and finds -- legitimate reasons to "love thy enemy." And she does not limit it to Christmastime.

Shireal just did a lovely one-woman show at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and it was (and is) clear: she shares herself, the deepest, most intimate part of her being, with her audience from the moment she steps onto the stage.

For Deborah, the screenwriter, nine-to-fiving it in an office, though she was good at it, was stifling. In her own words, "without it (writing), my life had less meaning. I was like a droid. My writing is who I am, it makes me feel good, and yes, life in 'the cage' would eventually have made me lose my mind, no question."

Personally, I'm glad she's out of the cage -- she is the one responsible for the screenplay for the film I mentioned above. Talk about giving. Not only do I have an amazing script, I also have an amazing friend. Two gifts for the price of one!

As for Brian, as a young child, he was so agonizingly shy that he isolated himself and actually made himself physically ill at the thought of presenting a verbal book report to his class. But then he found magic, and because of its very nature, he was obliged to be in front of people. Brian says that the first time he performed a magic trick in front of a group of friends, he was so wrapped up what he was doing, he didn't even realize he was speaking, and his life transformed -- instantly. His conscious choice to do magic outweighed his fear. That's a blessing, without question. But what I find especially moving is his philosophy: he says his magic is not about "fooling" his audience, it's about "what can I give them?'"

So, coming round full circle, what is it that I can give? My very best, I suppose, with all my heart, without holding back, which isn't difficult because it's what I already do -- in fact, it's the only way I can write. Which makes me wonder if I'm really giving anything at all. And so the circle keeps going round and round.

Pamela S. K. Glasner is an author, historian, public speaker and social advocate. Her website is . She can also be found on Facebook at . Ms. Glasner is scheduled to be a featured speaker at Dr. Peter Breggin's national conference for The Center for The Study of Empathic Therapy in Syracuse, New York, to be held April 8-10, 2011.

Copyright by Pamela S. K. Glasner ᅡᄅ 2010, All Rights Reserved