Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Making it Count

This week is usually Samantha and my biggest shopping week.  In previous years, both of our jobs have restricted our free time in December, eating up our evenings and weekends, leaving us weary and unwilling to fight the Christmas mobs.  This year has been much the same.  Between concerts, gigs, church musicals, region band activities, musical preparation, etc., we seemed to have barely had time to even see each other.  As the days have shrunk in length, so too has the time I have seen my house during daylight hours.  So, this first week of vacation is usually filled with a shopping binge.
This year is different.  We are not as financially free to spend as we have been in the past, and so we are unable to join the throngs of mall revelers and discount hunters in the same way as before.  As this is a new experience for both of us, we have to learn to adjust.
What I am learning is that every dollar I spend on a present has to have more impact.  Where I can’t overwhelm someone with volume or luxury, I now need to overwhelm with caring and thought.  Every gift has to have purpose.  I am sure many of you understand both sides of the coin, both the feverish purchasing of gifts absent of regard and the careful selection of gifts, constantly conscious of the pocketbook.
Please don’t misunderstand; I certainly am not implying that expensive gifts, or even a large amount of gifts are not thought out or have no meaning behind them.  I am just realizing that in my situation, the care and consideration I put into my gift giving has to elevate.  I have to make every gift count.  My hope is that in years beyond, as we regain the freedom we once had, I will take the lessons I learn this year and apply them.  Frivolous use of the plastic benefits no one but the corporations from whom I making my purchases.  Careful and considerate spending will benefit myself and my loved ones (as well as the corporations - there is no getting around that).
American society seems to approach gift giving as an obligation.  Too frequently, in the event we receive an unexpected gift, our response is either to apologize for not having one in return, or to run out and purchase an arbitrary gift to assuage our guilt.  The same seems to happen when the value of gifts are compared.  We add up the cost of the gifts we bestowed upon someone and compare it to the gifts they have given. 
Gift giving shouldn’t feel obligatory at all.  The act of offering something you produced or procured through your hard work should be a symbol of your appreciation for them.  Through giving a gift you are saying “thank you for being in my life.”  Monetary value can’t be attached to that and one gift should never be compared to another.  If you approach your gift giving as if it is required, i suggest you don’t give gifts at all until you can give freely and in the correct manner.
Our gift giving tradition has also produced the idea that we must always reciprocate if we receive a gift.  Something to consider before you run out to the Target to get a gift - you may have already given that person a gift and they are only returning the favor.  
This time of year is sometimes more stressful than it needs to be because of the psychosis generated by 300 million Santa Clauses.  Take a breath before you jump in, allow yourself to digest your gift list and make sure your reasons for giving gifts are pure.  Be sure that the gifts you give have meaning and purpose.  Make every single one count.

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