When I was growing up, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. As a Jehovah’s Witnesses, we considered the celebration inherently non-Christian and thus, contrary to what we believed constituted "worship in truth."
I remember kids and parents expressing regret for us. "Don’t you feel deprived when everyone else is getting presents?"
But, my mother is wise and loving.
Instead of a specific day where gift-giving can be burdensome and obligatory, throughout the year, Mom surprised us with special gifts that were filled with meaning and joy.
At this point in my life, I do not hold a particular religious or political stance in opposition to Christmas (or, really to any holiday). However, I feel honored to have been taught such a valuable lesson in giving from my mother.
She found great joy in the giving, to be sure, because it was out of joy rather than obligation. (Dov Baron recently offered a message on The Beast of Obligation and how to move from that burden toward the freedom of being joyful and authentic.) My mother is really one of my heroes, because she also gave us the gift of herself, the gift of her time.
I was reading an article in the December 2007 issue of the AARP Bulletin, "About Buying Gifts." The author contrasts her mother’s buying style with her father’s.
Her mom took care to find just the right gift. She knew that "a gift has to be about the person receiving it." The problem was that she worked so hard and so often to earn enough to buy the perfect gifts, her mother had little time to spend with her children.
Her dad, on the other hand, bought presents that he really wanted for himself. As a result, her dad ended up playing with or using the gift more often than the person for whom he supposedly had purchased it.
However, her dad lavishly bestowed on his children the gift of time.
"He had time to tramp barefoot through mud puddles. He had time to catch lightning bugs (my note: that’s fireflies to all you Northerners!) and to walk all the way to Dairy Queen and back on hot summer nights. And he had time to tell stories and to listen to us."
What about you?
With birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, and the holidays like Christmas or Hanukkah, it’s easy to get swept up in commercialism or it all and the obligatory "shoulds" and the "have-tos" in the area of gift-giving.
Do you feel a sense of obligation to give gifts — however meaningless — just because you have to? Or, do you give (or not give) a gift according to how good you feel about giving it?
What about the gift of you? How generous are you with your time?
Are you consistently paying attention to how you feeeeel and doing only that which is congruent?