Some things never change. Every year Thanksgiving is overshadowed by Christmas. It has almost become a ritual in itself that people can’t wait until the turkey is cooked, not alone savored, to turn on the Christmas lights, put the tree up and rush to the stores for that perfect gift. We hear it year after year, Christmas is too commercialized, why can’t we get the true meaning of the holiday back. Often these words are uttered as we stand in line waiting for checkout. What an oxymoron!
Actually, I love this time of year. People are generally in good cheer, they smile more and are usually more generous. I see this in my job delivering mail; people are actually glad to see us for their packages and cards. When I ring the doorbell I don’t get what I usually get the rest of the year which is “What do you want now!”
Of course, these feelings of good cheer are thrown out the window when you’re in the middle of a department store looking for that “perfect” gift. It’s hard to be cheerful when you are shoved, cut-off, sneered at and you put something in your cart only to have someone take it out. What exactly is the “perfect” gift anyway? Does it exist? Perhaps this year I can answer “yes’ to that question. It is the gift of self.
Thanks to Carmen and Emma, two precious little gals on my mail route, I am reminded that we can get back to the basics of Christmas and what the season is all about with just a little bit of effort. A couple days before Thanksgiving they had the flag up on their box and inside was a bright red scarf and a hand-written note that said this was an early gift and thanking me for what I do all year long. What a small gesture that warmed my heart.
Tis true what they say that sometimes less is more. There are so many ways to give the gift of yourself, and in so doing, you get the gift back in that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes by doing something nice for others. I learned this ten-fold this past year. As much as I was hurting after losing Jim, I learned there was always someone out there hurting more. A couple of dear folks that I have known all my life had to relent their independence and give up their home to go to an adult care home. That’s a huge decision. Just taking 30 minutes out of my day to spend with them was such a small sacrifice for me compared to the joy it brought them. Time shared is the perfect gift of self.
I also learned that the gifts of love and caring are the greatest gift of self. So many people made sure they were there for me throughout the year. It took so little effort on their part, but meant the world to me. Funny thing about love, it multiplies. The more you give away, the more you get in return. The heart has enough love to share with somebody for eternity and still you have an abundance of love to give to someone else special. The well never runs dry. What a selfless gift of themselves, all those that helped me realize this.
I also decided that all those dear to me will be getting homemade gifts this season. This is not because I am too cheap to buy a gift, but rather because I care enough not to. If I could not make what I wanted, I found a craftsman that could. There is something about making something unique with someone special in mind that turns it into the perfect gift. I’m not talking elaborate here, even a simple homemade jar of jam comes with a lot of self packed into it.
People scamper all over trying to find that perfect Christmas tree. I see commercials every night on TV promoting trees that look real, feel real, smell real. Why go to all the expense and trouble when a real tree does look real, feel real and smell real. So what if you have a few needles on the floor, you’ll have the real deal and there is nothing that can compare to the woodsy smell of a living fir tree. I know that little artificial tree we have had for years will be on next year’s garage sale and will be replaced by a small potted evergreen that can be planted next spring. This is a gift of self to myself that I can feel good about all year.
The Christmas season is always portrayed as bright and cheerful but it is not always so, especially for those that have lost someone or are hurting in other ways. By doing a small act of kindness, often by just being there for someone, you can not only brighten their world but also warm your heart as well.
It’s a good feeling to know that you don’t have to fight the crowds and all the hustle and bustle this holiday season to find the “perfect” gift. You already have it when you give the gift of self. You just need to take time and give it away.