Those close to me know that one thing I love about this time of year is giving gifts. In fact it is safe to say that the older I get, the more I end up enjoying giving someone a gift as opposed to getting one. After all we have heard since we were kids that it is better to give to others then to receive and I know this is true. The look of surprised and happiness on someone’s face is always worth it,
One year I even remember getting a blank look on my face and pausing as my aunt asked what I’d like for Christmas when we were out shopping the day after Thanksgiving. In all honesty I didn’t know. There were a few things I asked my parents for, but other than that my mind was filled with ideas for my friends. I love the look of surprise and gratitude they get on their faces when I give them a gift, even if it’s a small one. To me it’s not the dollar amount that matters, but taking the time to show someone I care.
When it comes to this time of year, I’m kind of like Robert Downey, Jr. as Mr Willowby in the forgotten Christmas classic Jim Henson presents Mr .Willowby’s Christmas Tree:
However, many don’t feel this way, and even dread this time of year. After all, everyone has at least one difficult person to shop for. However, with a little effort, thought and patience, even the hardest person on your list can be a synch. Many times, especially when we are kids, that person can easily be one of our parents.
I remember the first time I got to pick out a present for one of my parents. I was 10 years old. Now, prior to this throughout childhood, the typical standard operating procedure at Christmas time was mom and dad would often buy gifts for each other, then they would show me and my younger sisters what they bought. Then each of us could pick which present we wanted to put our names on.
The same thing applied to gifts for any siblings and cousins. Friends were exempt as they tended to ask for something. Gifts for cousins were either homemade or if they were store bought, something from all of us. Parents however was another matter. How do you pick out a good gift for mom and dad?
Mom was fairly easy as she loves Christmas and books, so a new book or a new Christmas movie or ornament or a piece for her nativity set are all great ideas. Dad was always the hard one, mainly as he never asked for much. That year I got my first good idea.
Early that summer my dad had shown me Star Wars for the first time. For his birthday I suggested we get him Empire Strikes Back on VHS. This lead to the logical conclusion on my part that for Christmas that year, I would give him Return of the Jedi. In fact I had this idea in place since about a month after that summer day when we first watched Star Wars together.
Heading down to the video store that winter, we picked up a copy. I was more excited about giving that VHS than any other gift that I gave him. Not only was it something I’d enjoy ( even though key plot points had been spoiled by reading the novel Star Wars: Heir to the Empire a few months before) but it was something I knew he’d love. Christmas morning came and dad was very surprised to get the video, and for once there was a lot of sincerity behind writing on the tag that it was from me.
To this day, I always try to put the same amount of thought into the gifts I give. I never try to buy something just for the sake of buying something, but I search for the gift that makes me say, “yes, that’s perfect for them.” I know a lot of people get stressed out about gift giving, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. If you love someone you are going to have an idea what sort of things they like. Sometimes they may even ask you. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, it just as to come from the heart. That’s what it’s really all about.
If you keep love at the center of your gift, not dollar amount, then the gifts you give will be those stupendous gifts. Then instead of dreading the day, you can retain a childlike sense of excitement when Christmas morning comes. It won’t come from the things you get but from the love that you give to others. Just remember the words of the Fraggles: