When I was getting ready to move to the US, and quite recently ordained, I did what so many of us do again and again in our lives - i sorted through my things. Memories mostly, in the sense that what inhabits most things is some recollection of time or place or people, which can be as weighty as the object itself.
One of my favorites was a beautiful scarf I had bought in Nepal in my very early twenties - on my first big adventure overseas, alone. That journey was monumental on many levels, I am probably still sifitng through them now. It certainly is where I circumambulated a Stupa for the first time in this life.
The scarf was of yak's wool - softer than a kitten's underbelly - and striped in narrow, crooked lines of subdued rainbow hues. I had mulled over its purchase in the crowded markets of Katmandhu - not wanting to spend my precious money, which needed to stretch until I didn't know when. I spent several days wandering hither and forth, and always drawn back to that tiny stall embellished with colour, garlanded with scarves; I would look and feel its almost gentleness on my skin. Really, I knew from the start i would buy it, yet I had to do this dance with myself; one I am so familiar (and often bored!) with, which perhaps has diminished over the years.
It stayed with me, even as I moved and travelled here and there, it remained a beloved possession - so warm and soft and beautiful. And the remaining souvenir of an overland trek which took me from Nepal, through the Khyber Pass and Afganhistan (where i had the great blessing to witness the majesty of the Bamiyan Buddhas, now erased) - through a region now torn and bloodied with war.
However, I knew the time had come for me to let it go. I could not imagine wearing it with my robes, and it seemed pointless to keep it just for the sake of not giving it away.
In my hometown there was a woman who had once told me she loved it. We were neither friends nor colleagues, but our paths crossed with regularity through our work. We met at meetings, events etc., and had done so for some years. She was not a woman I always found easy to be with. Perhaps we shared some similarities in being outpsoken and forthright in our viewpoints, which did not always agree. It was not that I outright disliked her, it was just often I found myself tightening, prickling. This, of course, was all from my side - she was most probably entirely oblivious to it. She was always, genuinely, friendly.
In the the interesting twists of life unfolding, she took over my job when I resigned. I visited once or twice - talking about the workplace, what was happening etc. One day she was wearing a scarf; i think she had a cold. I went home and pulled out my rainbow prize and sat with it. It was hard enough to give it away, harder still to think of giving it to someone who made me prickle. I clung for a day or two - the same dance, in reverse, as when I had bought it.
Then I took it in and gave it to her. Her face opened, smiling. She was touched and happy to receive this unexpected gift. Her delight was deep and infectious. "Are you sure?", she said (for after all, we were not close). "Of course", I replied - for in truth there was no more perfect recipient than her.
We both received a gift that day - and mine was much more valuable and lasting than hers. In giving something so dear to me to someone who was not, I began to understand the richness of generosity. It is not easy to let go of things we treasure, even if they have no worth, or in the case they do. We cling, we dance, we fear the enormity of loss. I still do. But in that moment of letting go, to benefit others, we open up that corner of our hearts wherein lies abundance and joy. Her smile alone repaid me for any apparent loss; I walked away from my old office enriched by the exchange, and grateful for the chance to see that being generous is truly its own precious reward .