This is the season of gift-giving, and while many say that it is better to give than to receive, they don’t necessarily follow that maxim when it comes to the really good gifts.
Maybe it is because the line between a really good gift and something that has been purchased has become blurred. Advertisers have co-opted all of the holidays that involve gifts to create a mass-marketed purchasing frenzy most notable in Black Friday, but also throughout the entire holiday season through the New Year.
That 50-inch, 720p, high-definition plasma television might seem like a super cool gift, but it is lacking in heart and thought.
The best gifts that we have ever given were to our parents when we were in grade school – the pasta and paper plate art, the hand turkey that was multi-colored and had paint glops on it and the now-politically incorrect ash tray or handmade clay bowl.
Our parents loved these gifts not because they had to, but because the gifts took time to make, contained something of ourselves and our love for our parents and we had them specifically in mind while we were making the gifts.
We have too much stuff as it is. Houses overflow with bric-a-brac, walls are covered in artwork and we have rented storage spaces just to hold all of the stuff that we don’t need.
For the secret to a really good gift, read the next sentence carefully. The best gift that we can give anyone is the gift of time.
Human contact is becoming more and more rare every single day. We are all so plugged in to our iPods and smartphones that we have forgotten that sending a text to someone is not the same thing as even mailing a hand-written letter. Our surrogates for human relationships are woefully inadequate, but we can remedy the problem.
The memories that we create with the ones we love will stand in time longer than any gift we could buy. Even diamonds get lost, but the joy that we can bring to others will last longer than the season if we do it in love.
Forget the stress of buying gifts and facing the crowds at the mall. Consider how to put that time to better use. Visiting a nearby relative, sharing a meal with a neighbor or a friend, going to the local retirement home – the smiles and laughter that are created will be remembered.
Some people are gift givers by nature. They should look into inexpensive handcrafts that hearken back to a simpler time. A whittled figurine, an origami flower or even a pasta-plate piece of art can bring a smile to the face of a loved one.
Things do not make people happy. Relationships can. It is time we all realize that we are interdependent on one another and instead of avoiding each other like each one of us was an incarnation of the Grinch, we should come together and enjoy what we have to offer each other.
After all, even the Muppets recognize that laughter is the third best gift that anyone can give – just behind children and ice cream.
Wishing you happy holidays, whichever ones you celebrate, and a joyous season for those who don’t celebrate any.