Not All Gifts Come in Boxes

The real life character Sandra Bullock portrayed in 'The Blind Side' unwraps different ways you can give during the holidays.

by Leigh Anne Tuohy
leigh anne tuohy image
Photograph: Leigh Anne Tuohy

Do you remember when you were a child, and the Sears catalog would arrive right before the holidays, and you (or at least I) would go through and circle everything you wanted for Christmas? It had all the presents you could want in one place.

I can hear my father right now saying, “Did you leave anything for anyone else?” I would always have a split second of guilt, but it quickly passed.

The holidays can be like a juggling act, like trying to narrow down your choices from the Sears catalog when it comes to gift giving. We all know the drill. You make a list with everyone’s name on it and what you think he or she wants. You ask the ones near and dear to you to be more specific, and then you add that to the list you have already started; all the while putting everyone else’s wants ahead of your own.

Over the years, a very typical comment we would hear during this time from our three kids went something like this, “I really need this for Christmas.” Then my husband or I would respond, “You might want it, but you certainly don’t need it.”

There is a difference in the two.

So many of us don’t truly need anything for Christmas. It is very tricky during the holidays to not just go out and splurge on getting family and friends whatever it is you think they just can’t live without or will put a smile on their faces.

Why is it, exactly, that we even give gifts during the holidays? For me, the idea of giving someone a gift is an act of kindness, to express to that person that she is special, that I appreciate her. It is a token of love and gratitude. It usually seems to me that one correlates one’s value with the amount of money spent on a gift. The more we spend on the gift, the more that person on the receiving end is valued.

I am here to tell you that is absolutely not accurate! Not all gifts have to be wrapped in beautiful paper or even cost money.

And, just because you receive a gift doesn’t mean you have to give one. For example, I recently checked into a hotel and was involved in an incident in the lobby. The hotel manager sent a gift to my room expressing his gratitude for my involvement in helping solve the crisis. There was no need for me to steal his thunder and send one back. He was expressing his gratitude, and that was his moment. It did not require me to compete with his gift.

Many times we give gifts that embarrass others. Prior to my father’s passing away, my brother and I pooled our funds and purchased him a new TV. He just kept saying, “You should not have done this.” He went on and on, and at one point I really felt a little uncomfortable that we had given him a gift he felt he had to compete with.

Oftentimes I think we give gifts out of habit. My neighbor and I had exchanged gifts for years. I had received candles of every fragrance you can imagine and a picture frame of every size. Finally one year we said, “Let’s pool our money and buy a gift for our mailman.” We now take great joy in changing the recipient of our gift each year and look forward to this new tradition we have created.

There are many gifts that we can give that don’t require money. We can give gifts of service; we can keep our gifts local; we can give gifts of love. No one ever said a gift has to fit neatly into a shirt box.

Let’s think outside that shirt box for our gift giving this year. Our economy has been brutal. We have had floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, and so many people are downtrodden and in despair. It is the gesture of giving that is important. I would love to create a revolution of giving as we have never seen before. Let’s explore some nontraditional giving options.

Gifts of service require nothing but your time and show genuine concern for your fellow man. Volunteer to babysit for a young couple to allow them to have a date night; or volunteer to clean up at a homeless shelter. Wouldn’t it be a grand idea to involve your children and teach them about gifts that keep on giving, as opposed to just another toy that within days will bore them? See if your children even remember what they received last year for Christmas; odds are they don’t.

First Published December 20, 2011

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erik murphy12.23.2011

you look awesome

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