Most of us don’t remember what our nearest and dearest gave us last year for a holiday gift. (Unless it was nada when we expected mucho. In that case we’ve still got those hurt feelings to cherish always.) We probably can’t remember what we gave them either!
We’re wired to remember how we feel. What was in the box… not so much. So why spend all the time and money stressing about, shopping for, then wrapping and delivering stuff for the most precious people on our list? Because we love them!
If we could, we’d show our love with every interaction. If we could, we’d tell our kids, “My life is enriched beyond measure because you are my child. I am grateful for my relationship with you. I love teaching you and learning from you. I understand who you are and I respect your uniqueness. All that you bring to this family is precious to me.”
Unfortunately we don’t know how to say any of that, so instead we give them stuff. And sometimes, when carefully chosen, the material gifts we give actually manage to transcend their innate stuffness.
When I was 15 my mother gave me a guitar for Chanukah. She’d “purchased” it with thousands of saved up S & H Green Stamps. Mom seemed to know exactly what my soul would respond to and her gift led me to new realms of self-expression and self-discovery. Playing music and singing became such a part of my identity that as a 22-year old teacher’s aide, my students presented me with a birthday cake in the shape of a guitar.
Curious about other peoples’ experiences, I asked a few folks to describe a very special gift they received as a child:
“When I was 9 my Dad & Mom gave me my first bike. I was so touched and happy because we had just moved and I knew times were very difficult for them. My first car was not as exciting.” R.C.
“When I was 5 my parents gave me a box of new crayons, which I enjoyed so much, lying on the floor coloring by the warm fireplace.” A.M.
“When I saw and smelled my first magnolia blossom I asked my parents if we could get a magnolia tree. They bought me one and as a family we planted it together in the yard. I now live 3,000 miles away from my parents’ home, but I still love to “visit” the magnolia tree whenever I’m there.” T.R.
“When I was a teen, my parents gave me a wooden box that looked like a pirate treasure chest. I think it held something that was supposed to be the real present, but I’ve long since forgotten what. But the box itself immediately became my favorite repository for special keepsakes. I’ve passed it on to my daughter who quickly put it to the same use. It gives me a happy glow to see it on her bookshelf.” N.F.
At the start of this gift-giving season, talk to your kids about what’s most important to each of you. Share your own stories about special gifts you’ve received. Think about ways your family can help others either locally and/or globally. Plan special time together – the best gift of all.
When you give, remember that your gift is an opportunity to show your deep understanding of and appreciation for the recipient. Gift-giving is all about love. Love is the gift. And if you choose wisely, something in a box may go straight to the heart.