Despite all the commercialism which surrounds it, I do think that our practice of exchanging gifts at Christmas has a great deal of merit to it. At its’ core, exchanging gifts serves to help us learn to be givers.
I would love to say that giving is one of my innate talents, but I recognize that it’s a lesser one at best; in my case it’s more of a skill I have to work on improving and refining constantly. The act of giving itself is easy for me; the skill I need to cultivate is in giving the right thing, the thing that will be loved and cherished.
Every year I resolve that I will be better as a gift-giver, and I am afraid that I continue to disappoint myself and fall short of my own expectations, but I will keep trying. I don’t think it is that difficult, the challenge is that time eludes me; I’ve never started soon enough to devote the thought and care I should. Christmas Day approaches, and I start scrambling.
Flickr photo credit.
I know I still have some time left, but considering the names still on my list I fear I haven’t done so great this year once again. For one thing, I did fall into that on-sale trap because of two shopping expeditions with my daughter. In those instances, gift-selection has become a by-product and the catalyst, but it’s really about the game of it all and a kind of bonding experience between us. Those things are great, however the casualty is that we do end up with some gifts that are just okay, could have been way better, and certainly are not in that ‘will be loved and cherished’ category.
Those who receive them do appreciate our efforts, for it is true that “it’s the thought that counts” with the thrill of knowing you’re on someone’s gift list in the first place. However for me as the giver, looking at a gaily wrapped box which I know is prettier than the specialness of what’s inside is awful. My first New Year’s resolution is always that I’ll never do that again.
My hope lies in knowing that I have been much, much better at it in years past, so the potential is there! Parenting with lessons from Santa is magnificent training, for you get quick wins in pleasing your children, and as long as you have it, money is irrelevant; things like sales are just happy coincidences.
However as they get older, even getting gifts for your own children gets tougher and tougher. At 19 and 22 my son and daughter are the biggest challenge on my gift list, and yet I know them better than anyone else. Thus, I throw out that advice that you need to know someone better to be a better giver. If they are on my gift list at all, I do know them well, and the problem with an ill-selected gift is all about me, and not what I know about them.
Well the good news is that Christmas isn’t here yet, and I’m not thinking about this after the fact again. Small improvements can be big ones! I’ve got two more weeks!
In their December issue, Real Simple magazine has a very touching four-page spread in which they asked readers to answer the question,
“What is the most meaningful gift you’ve ever received?”
You know that photo of you as a grinning, snaggletoothed five-year-old, framed by the Popsicle sticks you so carefully embellished with dried macaroni and glitter? Well, it holds a very special spot in your parents’ Most Meaningful Gifts Hall of Fame””
This was the winning response the editor’s chose:
“I met my birth father for the first time when I was in my early 20s. He gave me a small, perfectly smoothed silver disk. He had tears in his eyes as he explained that the disk was actually a quarter that he had carried in his pocket ever since the day I was born. The coin’s design had slowly worn away after nearly 25 years of contant handling. It was his way of remembering his little girl.”
One of my most meaningful Christmas gifts was from our Ho‘ohana Community, and it came to me in January. For those of you who don’t yet know the story of the Traveling MWA, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.
Meanwhile, do you have a story of a cherished gift to share? Let’s inspire each other to be the better gift givers which live inside us all.