At a time when most people are experiencing the “warm fuzzies” that are associated with Christmas and the holiday season, I’m troubled by the number of people that can’t “enjoy” Christmas because they don’t have money to buy gifts! Personally, I know way too many people who are unemployed, underemployed or overextended and have been for quite some time. Thankfully, some are easily putting things into perspective and taking the less traveled road called “I’m not going to let a dollar sign define me” while others are already withdrawing, getting grumpier by the minute, rejecting kind gestures from friends and family or downright refusing to participate in any holiday activities. Call it caring or nosey (either way, I don’t mind) but, for those who don’t seem to handling things well, I’ve made it my business to pose the questions “So how are you feeling about Christmas?” or “Tell me what you’re doing Christmas Day?” and, sadly, the majority of responses have started with some form of “I don’t know, I don’t have any money”!! Whaaat?!?! *in my my Minion, from Despicable Me, voice* Now, before I come across as mucho judgmental, please understand that I have been unemployed or downright broke during the holidays and, at times,I also fell victim to the fallacy that I HAD to have money to enjoy this time of the year so…been there, done that! Sadly, however, the year came when we lost two uncles, between mid-December and early January (less than thirty days apart) and that was all I needed to remind me that money and things will NEVER take the place of the moments we have with our loved ones.
Now, before y’all panic and think I’m being “anti-gift giving” or a true-life Scrooge, understand that I enjoy giving and receiving gifts but, in EVERY situation, it’s more important to me that we keep the giving in perspective and not let the commercialization of Christ’s birth take over! To give you a bit of background, know that my parents and grandparents taught me that we give gifts on Christmas to commemorate the gifts brought by the Wise Men on the night of Jesus’ birth. Again, although I lost sight of this at some points in my life, it’s this principle that has allowed me to get back to a place – spiritually, mentally and fiscally – where gift-giving is symbolic, simple and based on giving the recipient the most important gift of all: me and the talents God has placed in me! Returning to this mode of thinking has given me a freedom that I wish I could bottle and hand out on street corners or pipe into the air ducts at malls or, somehow, sprinkle it into our water system but, since I can’t, I’m verbally dishing it out and, well…blogging! So, without further ado, here are five non-material gift ideas I’m hoping you’ll find useful:
1. The Gift of Courage: Package up that courageous part of you and reach out to that person who’s struggling. We all know someone who’s hurting right now so, instead of saying “I don’t want to make them sad by bringing things up”, pick up the phone, touch their hand or whatever means you feel are appropriate and extend to them an invitation to be vulnerable or “not ok”. If you’re a person of prayer, pray with and for them, if not, go sit quietly with them while they cry, hang out on the couch and watch a movie, tell them jokes, look through photo albums, etc. The list of actions is limitless but, ultimately, giving someone the courage to face another difficult day is a priceless gift that will probably mean more than you’ll ever know!
2. The Gift of Service: Package up your talent and abilities and use them to serve others! Are you great with kids? If so, call the parents around you and offer free babysitting services! Can you cook? Stir up a pot of soup for a sick neighbor! Do you know how to swing a hammer? Then go down to Habitat for Humanity and help build a home! Just remember, every talent and ability you have is useful to someone, somewhere, so go find them and make a difference!
3. The Gift of Peace: Choose to give your family, friends and enemies the gift of peace! Is there someone you’ve been avoiding, fighting with or planning to “put in their place”? How about that co-worker that likes to push your buttons or that person in traffic that INSISTS on cutting in front of you? Anybody have an aunt that shows up every year and tries to make her “interesting” potato salad the highlight of the meal? At any rate, if we simply look around, we can see countless acts of disharmony, meanness and ugliness making this world more challenging by the day so why contribute? This year, no matter what, let’s choose to extend the olive branch, keep our mouths closed or be the bigger person in our homes and elsewhere…let’s spread peace, not discord!
4. The Gift of Time: Put a bow on yourself and give, give, give! Spend time reading to your children, listen to your grandmother tell the same story like it’s the first time you’ve heard it, stand at the curb and chat with your neighbor, don’t rush away from that stranger who wants to tell you ALL their business, have a picnic with your sweetheart and, all the while, listen and give them your undivided attention! In other words, give this gift solo, without assistance from that text message that you just HAVE to read right now, or that Facebook alert that can’t wait another five minutes or that phone call that you’ll die if you don’t take right away! The people who need you most need ALL of you so commit to giving them the priceless gift of yourself!
5. The Gift of Creativity: If you could, would you buy your mom the world? If you had the means, would you take your brother golfing at Pebble Beach? If money were no object, would you buy your woman an exquisite piece of jewelry? In most cases, questions like this are followed by an exuberant “yes” but we stop there. Since many of us don’t have the ability to do everything we’d like, let’s put our creative hats on and make magic happen! So you can’t give your mom the world but, if you have basic PowerPoint skills, you can make her a beautiful slide show of pictures from Spain, Australia or anywhere else she can only dream of, add some of her favorite music and give her that! Can’t take your brother to Pebble Beach? Why not take him miniature golfing and laugh your butts off instead?! Give your woman a candy necklace while telling her how priceless she is and, someday, if given the chance, you’ll replace each piece of candy with a kiss and a smile! Write a letter! Create a rap about your best friend! Break out the karaoke machine and serenade your kids! Dream it and do it!
Ultimately, take the opportunity to think outside the box the world has created around this blessed holiday and don’t let money, or a lack thereof, dictate how you commemorate December 25th. Remember, anybody can go to a store and buy the latest and greatest but only YOU can give of YOURSELF so get busy!
Lastly, for those of you who may be worried about people responding negatively to a non-material gift, refer to gift #3 then, with all your strength, smile and tell them to take their selfish behinds somewhere and SIT DOWN! 😉
Until next time…