The One Perfect Gift

Little Carla sat sobbing in her room surrounded by toys and presents.  Mommy was downstairs on the computer.  Daddy was working his second job to earn badly needed cash.  Carla was alone.  Christmas was over.

In our modern day rush to provide and give, we sometimes lose sight of the greatest gifts of all.  Gifting has taken on a life of it’s own as we struggle to keep up with the latest and hottest new gadgets and games.  We can’t turn on the TV or open a magazine without some advertisement tempting us to buy more and more.

Our children, we think, measure our worth as parents in terms of how well we can provide them with stuff.  What did you get for Christmas?  Our neighbors look over to check out our new car.  The ladies at the office ooh and aah over new designer styles.  Those shoes are just wonderful.  And we lie, “Oh, my husband bought these for me, $60 on sale,” as we remember the $210 credit card slip we signed then threw away.

The holidays come, Christmas and Chanukah.  We write our lists and rewrite them knowing in our heart of hearts that if we get it wrong our friends and loved ones will think less of us.  Shopping is more like a hunting trip starting at Thanksgiving.  We need to bag our list before the other hunters take all the good ones.

Still we hope that somewhere in some store at some time we will find the one perfect gift for each person on our list.  We know it’s not on our list but we feel it.  We know that it’s out there; the one perfect gift.  At this point we don’t even care what it costs.  We need it.  Then our holidays will be complete.

“I don’t know what to get: you, the kids, Aunt Sally, Mom, Dad, the boss, friend Joe; the list goes on and on.  We lose sleep.  We spend time worrying, shopping, packing, shipping, shopping, working, and shopping some more.  We just want that one perfect gift and it will be a great holiday.  We know it’s out there but we just can’t seem to find it.

Well, we can’t find it out there because it is not out there.  The one perfect gift is not out but in.  The one perfect gift is inside us all.  The one perfect gift is the gift of love and understanding.  It comes from our hearts not from our shopping list.  It is priceless as it cannot be bought.  It cannot even be found; it must be given.

Here is how to give the one perfect gift.

q       Understand that our greatest desire in life is to be understood and appreciated for who we are…not what we own but who we are.

q       Think of each person you love and appreciate and come up with ideas on how you can show them your feelings…not with stuff but with your time and thoughtfulness.  You will save tons of stress and time when you don’t worry and shop over your list.  Here are some ideas:

o       Get one small token gift for each person that you must.  Something special that they can remember you and the holiday fun by.

o       Give moderately to children.  Teach them the value of time and appreciation.  Contribute the savings to their college fund.

o        Instead of spending time shopping, spend it with your friends and family.

o       Have a slow and enjoyable meal at home.  Even have good takeout so you don’t have to work.

o       Sit together and tell stories.  Everyone should contribute even just a little.

o       Start a new tradition.  Ours is a holiday punch with frozen strawberries and lime sherbet and little sandwiches made on green and red bread.  We all make the punch and sandwiches.

o       Play board and card games.  Back in the old days before computers Mom always bought a new family game for Christmas.  We had a ball.

o       Visit with your friends.  Have a slow coffee and chat.

o       Write a nice letter (no e-mail) to Aunt Sally.

o       Bake or make a little gift.  This can be a family or group project.  My favorite gifts are well over 20 years old with handprints, construction paper and crayon writings.  You know what I mean.

o       Sit down with a good book and relax.  Give yourself the gift of time.  De-stress.

o       Share with your friends and family on your gift exchange list that you are starting a new tradition.  You are going to stop buying and give the one perfect gift from now on.  Here’s a letter to help you do that.

o       Give part of what you save from not buying presents to charity.  Your gift will keep on giving.  If your relatives insist on buying, ask them to donate to the charity of their choice instead.  Then you won’t have to stand in line at the returns counter.  Spend that time with your family and friends instead.

Some families jump right in and do this all at once.  Others phase it in over time by setting limits on spending and making more and more time available for new activities that they introduce to their friends and families.  The perfect path to the one perfect gift is the one you take.

There is nothing in life more valuable than our time.  We get to enjoy it only once.  We can enrich each moment with the love and friendship that we share.  It is the giving of love, friendship and understanding that enriches us all.  It is the one perfect gift that keeps on giving forever.

Steven C. Martin