The Gift of History

By Rev. J. Shannon Webster

A few words in defense of gifting:  The Christmas season, in many cultures, involves gifting.  Some object to that, holding that it commercializes and detracts from the spiritual meaning of the season.  Early Puritans so strongly loathed the practice of gift-giving that they  outlawed it. (Good luck with that!)

On the other hand, gift-giving is as old as history itself.  Naturalists have noted that even Chimpanzees do it.  Gift-giving has been attached to various purposes, including identity, promise-making, trust-building, social bonding, hospitality, blessing, and marking special events – as in the potlatch ceremony of the indigenous people of the American Northwest.

When given intentionally, gifts can hold our memories, our history, our identity.  They can remind us where we came from, and where we may be going.  And it is not only more blessed to give than to receive, (well…for adults), it is also a lot more fun!

Think of history as a gift, bearing with it remembrance of our story, bearing with it a hint or a vision of our own future, our next chapter.  How do we know where we come from?  How are we connected with our past?  Why are we here?

For those who claim the identity of Christian, gifting in this season may renew our identity as children of God who are claimed by Christ Jesus.  God-given stories and remembrances tell us our own story of salvation.  They remind us who we are and why.

Think with me of this library, the Menaul Historical Library of the Southwest.  If you are reading this newsletter, on paper or on your screen, you are holding in your hands a reminder of the gift of memory, identity, hope and daring deeds.  A library is a holy thing – a record of our historical past, and an instrument to help to us now to continue making a future.  Maybe someday someone will enter this Library to study the life of you or your great grand-daughter.  It could happen!

Menaul School has gifted us with a near in-perpetuity use of Allison Hall for the home of our library’s (yours and mine) growing collection (nearly 8,000 documents, books, records and artifacts) from those who came this way before us.  Renovation of Allison to make it the safe and usable gift of a modern library obviously costs more than a bit. I invite you to join me in making a gift to history past, present, future – to this holy thing.  The Library.

To give, contact library staff or the Preserving History Funding Committee

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