Swearing off the exorbitant gift giving of Christmas is something I cannot help but get behind. However, we also run the risk of being, well, scroogey. Giving gifts is something that is fundamentally human and to relinquish the practice to those who trample each other at Walmart might be as much of a concession to consumerism as maxing out the visa cards. “Spend money or don’t give gifts.” That doesn’t sound at all right to me.
We say, “Its the thought that counts.” But I have to admit that sometimes I have thought, “which thought exactly was it you had when you made me a toilet paper cozy?” The generosity is great but what do you think about when you think of me?
I hope my good friends are not reading this because this year I am giving some of them imaginary gifts. Now I can see where this could seem quite awful. Let me explain. This year I honestly really don’t and its sometimes hard because i would see something online or have an idea and know I couldn’t get my hands on that whosamagadget. So I started keep a journal. It goes something like this.
This year I know just what I would get you. I have a list of things and I want to tell you why. On my list I am going to get you new brushes and a canvas. Something happens when you paint that just brings beauty to the world and I love it when it does.
My list says I am going to buy you some cool plates, napkins and some glasses because I think you let people in your life. People feel at home around you. You are hospitable in a way and with a grace I really appreciate, like that time I came over and stayed till two talking about Wilco. It was just some harmless fun but I left stronger.
I would buy you all these things and more if I could to just try to begin to tell you… You are the gift.
I can tell you for certain that I would rather sit around Christmas morning sipping cider and sorting through a pile of letters from people who love me, than all the boxes in the world.
The best gifts name us. Even if we can’t spend the money, we certainly can continue to bless other people. The best human exchanges call out the beauty and poetry of the recipient. It not only celebrates who they are but believes in their future. We could also buy the paints and brushes if we can. To some degree we should, because we are making an actually investment in that persons life. That is faith. That is hope. It is love.
The idea that we have the power to name each other is always true. That means that this time of year we have an incredible opportunity to call out the best in others. It might be as easy as asking what I can give them that says, “Thank you.” because in some way they have been the gift. And if we run out of money we can always, y’know, just say it.
Having a kiddo brings the whole gift thing to a new light. I was so relieved when Holly and I decided NOT to throw a 3rd birthday party for Annie but to just spend it as a family. I DREAD the glut of THINGS that are sent to Annie. She is not yet at a developmental point of enjoying them so this year we bagged up a bunch of unused toys and donated them.
I know people mean well and just want to express their love but sometimes I just want to tell people, “We are going to throw a birthday party and the gift Annie wants the most is an afternoon with you.” . . . and a tablet computer . . . she REALLY wants one . . . trust me . . .
This the first year I’ve really made an effort to give gifts to anyone other than family. Not only am I generally terrible at gift-giving, but I tend to think in terms of giving time and encouragement. So when I decided to make a little more effort this year, the physical gifts, although simple, were given with a lot of love and effort. They were given as a means of building a relationship. It was fun, and a good lesson for me in putting actions to thoughts.