Only 10 more shopping days until Christmas!
That really means only ten more days of figuring out what you are going to get this year for all those “hard to buy for” people on your list.
Ten more days of deciding what will be the replacement for that “must have” gift that is no longer available.
Ten more days of trying to squeeze another trip to the mall into your already busy holiday schedule.
Ten more days of convincing yourself its okay to charge your purchase on your credit card and worry about it later.
Let me pause for a moment and reassure you that I am not a Grinch. Quite the contrary. I like presents as much as the next person. I like giving presents too. But I think gift-giving, particularly at Christmas has become problematic.
Can you make a list of all the gifts you received last Christmas?
Can you remember the gifts you gave last Christmas?
What about 2 years ago?
Chances are, unless you have a memory like an elephant or received or gave a particularly unique or special gift, you will have trouble recalling what presents were exchanged.
That’s because gift giving has become a habit, not an act of love.
Sheldon Cooper, the socially challenged genius on the television series The Big Bang Theory, has an interesting philosophy about exchanging presents that is actually not that far from the truth. He says that the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity.
“You haven’t given me a gift. You’ve given me an obligation,” he explains to his friends. “The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you’ve given me.”
Perhaps we don’t consciously approach gift giving with the same quid pro quo attitude as Sheldon. But let’s face it. In the whirlwind of running around in the couple of weeks prior to Christmas to find something for everyone on our list, we begin to miss the whole point of the activity.
Here are two things to keep in mind:
First, people have an abundance of stuff. So much so that getting rid of clutter is consistently one of the top New Year’s resolutions people make. They don’t need another sweater, video game or basket of bath products to add to the pile.
Secondly, many people go into debt in order to purchase Christmas gifts and then they take several months to pay their bills off.
Buying things people don’t really need with money we don’t have is the easy approach to gift giving.
What people always need are opportunities to deepen their connection with their loved ones. They need experiences that create memories. They need more fun, play and laughter.
They definitely don’t need another gift card.
You have to be brave of heart to give gifts that are not about stuff. You have to be willing to break the habit of exchanging things and start a new one. Trust me you will get some push back from some folks.
That’s because being brave of heart actually costs you more than any amount of money you might spend. It requires more of you – more effort, more time, more focus on what is really important.
I’ve often said that children should be our role models. In a recent experiment, some kids were asked what gift they wanted from Santa. Of course they listed the usual things – everything from video games to Lego. Then they were asked what gift they wanted from their parents. All of them had similar wishes – going to the park, playing more games, reading bedtime stories. Here’s the kicker. The kids were then asked if they had to choose between the gift from Santa and the one from their parents, which one would they pick. Yup, every one of them picked the one from their parents – not a thing, but time and connection.
So in these final shopping days before Christmas, pause for a moment be brave of heart. Start small. Trade one easy gift for one that makes memories. Think about how you can create Christmas rather than buy it.
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What are your thoughts on gift giving?