December 23, 2022
The Season of Joyful Giving
The shopping is done, gifts are wrapped, and we gather with families and friends or plan a day of solitude, binging on our favorite movies or foods. We have volunteered at church or community events or sponsored families in need. The office parties and activities are drawing to a close as we focus on the food and unwrapping of gifts.
It’s easy to get caught up in the shopping lists and activities of the season, trying to balance the gift count for the kids, the perfect gift for a loved one or struggling to find that last-minute item that we may or may not need. It’s fun for some and stressful for others. My husband told me this morning that he was heading for a “huge depression” about what to get me for Christmas while reminding me that See’s Chocolates could still fit in his stocking. He’s the guy who needs to give the perfect gift (purchased at 4 pm on Christmas Eve).
We decided years ago not to exchange gifts at Christmas but to focus on each other and have some wonderful experiences together, acknowledging our lives together. Each year I remind him of that promise which always brings a huge sigh of relief.
Giving Means Paying Attention
David Whyte writes: “Giving means paying attention and creating imaginative contact with the one to whom we are giving. It is a form of attention itself, a way of acknowledging and giving thanks for lives other than our own.”
“To give is to make an imaginative journey and put oneself in the body, the mind and the anticipation of another. To give is to make our own identities more real in the world by committing to something specific in the other person and something tangible that could represent that quality. To give is also to carry out the difficult task of putting something of our own essence in what we have given. The perfect gift may be tiny and inexpensive but accompanied by a note that moves the recipient; it can be enormous, extravagant and jaw dropping as a courageous act of flamboyance and devil-may-care love, but to give appropriately, always involves a tiny act of courage, a step of coming to meet, of saying I see you, and appreciate you and am also making an implicit promise for the future. Little wonder then that the holiday giving that is none of these, that is automatic, chore-based, walking round the mall-based, exhausts us, debilitates us, and in the end is quite often subtly insulting to the one whom we eventually give the random item.
Better to spend a long time sitting in our armchairs in silent contemplation of those we want to gift, looking for the imaginative doorway that says I know you and see you and this is how I give thanks for you, which may bring us to the perfect “object” but also may bring us instead to write the short heartfelt message that acknowledges their place in our lives. . .
Clichés are clichés often because they are so stubbornly true; it is the thought that counts, but even more it is the imagination behind the thought that counts, made tangible through gifts that find their definition through being twice blessed.”
The greatest gift of the season for me was when my brother gave me a card last week expressing his gratitude for supporting him through a challenging year, and with tears in his eyes, he said he wouldn’t have made it without the support of his family. To me, that’s the greatest gift I could receive, a full expression of love.
Yes, the See’s Chocolates just got ordered with rush delivery. We will sit in front of the fireplace, binging on our favorite movies, eating chocolate, and enjoying the amazing life we have built together.
Our wish for this season is that we all may find the time to recognize what each of the recipients means to us and how they touch our lives, and to express gratitude for them in our lives.