I remember feeling despair as a young mom that I couldn’t afford the gifts my four young kids wanted, or in most cases simply needed. The needed ones were “dressed up” as gifts but they were practical items they simply had to have - like a new coat, mitts or boots for winter. Toys were a luxury and any of the gifts meant significant sacrifice and debt for us as a family. We would put things on our already stretched credit cards and then we would march into the New Year with a lot of debt and anxiety about having to somehow pay for the holiday spending we felt we had to do. I would feel so inadequate and like a failure because we didn’t have the means to get them all the gifts they wanted. And would often spend more than we truly could afford, even on necessities.
In my own childhood, I can recall a book of Aesop Fables being my only gift one Christmas. I treasured that book and read the fables over and over again. A small Timex watch that cost 17 dollars was another years treasure. A watch was something I both needed and wanted. One gift each year. Sometimes a card with 5 dollars in it and a box of mandarin oranges were the gifts, and I felt rich beyond belief. My dad left the price tag on the watch in the package by accident and honestly I was beside myself to own such an expensive thing. And I knew, with each gift, that my family had sacrificed much to buy them for me. We were poor but we were always thrilled with what we received.
As I’ve grown older, and now find myself able to afford gifts of all sorts, I have the very good fortune to see and feel both sides of the giving equation. I haven’t forgotten where I came from. I will admit there are years that my new financial situation has led the charge and I have bought too many gifts. I need to examine that more and think harder about getting back to the small things that count not the costlier ones. Having money is a gift that should not be abused, but shared. And I learn this more and more every day and with each passing year. I am acutely aware, more than ever, of the obligation to share my luck with those less fortunate. And to remember my roots.
I share this because i know many of you are out there stressed right now. Worried about buying a gift and spending money that is likely difficult to find. I survived a very poor childhood and the moments that mattered most to me were simply feeling loved, not the amount of gifts I received to demonstrate that love to me.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter your situation, you always have one thing you can give: kindness. Give it abundantly this holiday season. Kindness comes in small thoughtful acts, caring words, praise and a listening ear. No gift wrapping necessary. Costs nothing. Means everything.
Go easy on yourself this holiday. Remember to be kind to yourself by not adding even more stress to your already hectic and demanding life. Enjoy moments and take the time to reflect. Christmas isn’t about the volume of gifts you give or receive. It’s about having love for yourself and for others.