It’s December and the holiday chaos has officially begun! I love the holidays but it can be a stressful time of year. There is pressure to find gifts for everyone under the sun. What do you give your child’s teacher? The neighbors? Your girlfriend from college who you haven’t seen in a year? These people are important in our lives and we want to acknowledge and thank them but how?
I was talking with a girlfriend last night and she mentioned that she hoped that some friends of hers who live across the country wouldn’t send them a gift this year. She said when they lived in the same town and saw each other often – it made sense to exchange gifts. In recent years, however, they have moved and don’t keep in touch very well. And at Christmas each year – a nice gift arrives – the kind you give someone when you don’t really know what to buy them. (Pears from Harry and David, for example!) She also explained that she still liked them and didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by suggesting they don’t exchange gifts or by just not sending something this year but she hadn’t talked to her friend in nine months. I knew exactly what she was talking about- I’ve found myself in that situation. Sometimes we exchange gifts out of habit or not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings or because we anticipate the other person will give us a gift.
This type of gift giving adds to our holiday stress – we have to figure out what to buy someone that we don’t know enough about to know what to buy them. This got me to thinking! Of course it makes sense to give your boyfriend/spouse a present – you know what will make him smile! Of course it makes sense to give your children a present – you know what they are crossing their fingers and cleaning their rooms in hopes of getting. But maybe we switch things up a bit for some of the others in our lives. How about the gift of presence? What do I mean by that? Wouldn’t my girlfriend and her friend out west more enjoy a 30 minute chat on the phone and catch up? Wouldn’t that be more meaningful, less stressful and appreciated?
For your child’s teacher instead of a gift card to somewhere that you aren’t even sure she shops – how about offering to come help out one afternoon, organize the supplies or help grade papers? Wouldn’t that gift of help be more thoughtful and appreciated?
For your neighbor – how about coffee together or a walk around the neighborhood – spend some time getting to know each other if you don’t already or enjoying each others company if you only see one another coming and going. If your neighbor is elderly- offer to help out with the leaves or shovel their drive next time it snows. Give the gift of your time and presence when it will be most appreciated.
For your girlfriends – how about going to a fitness class together. Motivate each other to try something new and spend some time – be present with each other. Wouldn’t a Pilates session with a friend have bigger benefits and be more enjoyable than a candle or a scarf? You accomplish two goals – quality time together and fighting the holiday weight gain too!
For your book club, supper club, insert club/organization here – how about volunteering together for an organization or work a water stop for a local race or do an activity together like horseback riding or a cooking class. You would certainly have some laughs and create lasting memories more so than an ornament exchange!
This year I encourage you to think about your gift giving and think about being more present. Giving your time and attention can be more rewarding and more appreciated … and also less stressful. Chances are you’ll spend less time being present than you would searching for presents, wrapping presents, mailing presents or delivering presents. This year – create some memories and use your time in a way it will be appreciated. Give the gift of Presence!