Dr. Rachell N. Anderson
We see the glittering lights of Christmas and are reminded that we must get out and buy stuff to show our loved ones, friends, and coworkers how precious they are to us. We use Christmas as the most important time to make this display. We decide what to get and how much to spend while feeling a tension growing inside of us because we know at the same time, this very gift may strengthen or lessen the fabric of these relationships.
Unfortunately, figuring out the right gift can be very difficult because we, as a society have begun to assign such a high value on the gift. Which gift can truly measure up to this standard? Thoughts like “Was he listening when I hinted what I wanted?, Is he or paying attention to me or only buying what he/she wants me to have? Why can’t he/she remember that I hate pink, or that no longer wear size 12? Did he/she just grab something on the way home on Christmas Eve? The back story suggests that the giver knows very little about them and therefore doesn’t love or value them quite enough. At this point, you may visualize Humpty Dumpty leaning forward on the wall.
To avoid giving the wrong gift, many people give what is known as safe gifts: consumables like, cheese, a bottle of good wine, candy, especially chocolate, even gift cards are like a universal jack. Most people are likely to find these gifts useful but they are not likely to be remembered past the time they are consumed. Nor are they likely to help us to love one another.
I think we’re missing the point of the whole reason for the season. The problem is that people seem not to understand that our lives are filled with stuff and yet we harbor the nagging suspicion that there doesn't seem to be enough love, happiness, peace or forgiveness to go around. Everywhere we look, there is grief and pain. There is anger and regret. There is bitterness. There is hopelessness and loneliness. And, while love can heal all wounds, love is in short supply. Buying stuff may help the economy but I doubt it helps us to love one another. Christmas is a holiday that gives us all an opportunity to show our love. According to Peg Bracken “Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.”
So perhaps this holiday season we should put an extra effort into another kind of gift giving-love. Here are some ideas and additional ones from Green Gifts of Time that I found on the internet.
1. Each year, some folks begin growing their hair in July so that by Christmas they will have braids to share with cancer patients who have lost their hair from the chemotherapy treatments. The braids are cut and lovingly presented to those who needs hair and who can’t, at least for now, grow their own.
2. Some families put out the word and invite all who are not otherwise committed, to their home for Christmas dinner. Fun is had by all.
3. Help your friend or family member with his or her favorite cause. Whether it’s Habitat for Humanity, a veteran’s support weekend or the Humane Shelter. Your gift will not only make them feel great, but you’ll also be helping to make the world a better place.
4. Give the gift of your time. From an hour to a weekend, let your loved one decide what they’d like you to do for them.
5. Help with a home improvement task. No home is without need for a little improvement. Whether it’s painting the house or planting some trees in the yard, offer up a few hours of your time to help them complete the task.
6. Host a movie night: action, foreign, drama. If your loved one likes movies, you can host a movie night featuring all his/ her favorite films and snacks. Invite friends over for a true movie-going experience he/she won’t forget!
7. Be a baby sitter. For parents, getting away from the kids is a real blessing. Give a stressed out pair the gift of a night of relaxation by offering to babysit for them. For many parents, a night away is better than anything you can buy in a store.
Christmas is all about giving. As humans we struggle to know how to be generous without measuring what we believe we deserve and to share our gifts without keeping score. When you give the gift of love, you makes a greater impact than any material thing ever could.
Love outlasts any possession that money could buy. Love is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Dr. Rachell Anderson is a native of Tunica, a licensed Clinical Psychologist, a Professor Emeritus and author. She taught at the University of Illinois and ran a Private Clinical Practice in Springfield, Illinois for many years. She now lives and writes in Tunica, Mississippi. Check out her website at WWW.drrachellanderson.com for more articles and books.