As you enter this busy holiday season, ask yourself, “Do I have a giving philosophy?” Often this time of year brings up strong emotions and unfortunately stress. Identifying your giving philosophy, can help save your mental / emotional health. It provides a guide to making choices during this hectic time of the year. Aligning what you do with your personal philosophy helps to maintain peace and harmony. My philosophy is, “The most valuable things we possess are our time and attention.” The greatest gift someone can give me is to share their time with me and give me their full attention. What a rare gift these days! Sometimes that is what stays in our remembrance and leaves the greatest impact on our lives.
Today less emphasis is placed on this precious non-renewable resource. Instead, society focuses on the accumulation of material holdings. This is unfortunate, because most people will not remember the gift you bought them years from now, but they will remember the times you shared together and the memories created. A few years ago, after falling into a overwhelming spiral of buying stuff that was not really wanted or needed, for people I really did not know or care deeply about, I became jaded with the concept of Christmas. I wanted to find a way to realign Christmas with my giving philosophy.
As a result, I evaluated my list and started making some targeted changes. It started by giving those I care about inexpensive gift baskets with some of their favorite things. In the least, it shows attention to what they say, do, and enjoy. The baskets include a variety of items, from snacks they like, spotted body care items, something handmade, or anything particularly special to them. Often little things found on junking journeys that they would like. Then a personal handwritten note is included with an invitation to share a meal together on me. That way, the gift is shared, as a plan to spend time together, (which is the true gift of friendship) would be set. Not being able to think of things to put in someone's basket is a good indication that you are not close.
When evaluating your gift-giving list, look at how much is “expected,” but not “excited” gifting, meaning gifts have always been changed, but you no longer have, or never had, a close relationship with this person. Perhaps it is time to suggest a get-together versus an obligatory gift. Buying gifts for everyone in an extended family can create another draining holiday experience. Many years ago, we found that buying for everyone was not only financially draining, but also mentally. So much so, that it began to cause dread, versus a spirit of joy. Many times, we had no idea what to get these people and it became a source of frustration instead of an enjoyable experience.
That is when the main family decision makers got together and decided that it would benefit everyone to draw names. This way more thought could go into the gift choices and more funds would be available to purchase something they might actually want, use, and enjoy. Now there are many variations of this concept, the important thing is to evaluate what would benefit the people with what you exchange gifts. One guiding principle is to determine if the current routine reflects the meaning of the season and your giving philosophy, or if it has become an expected routine of consumerism. Sometimes change is necessary to realign values and priorities that have drifted off course.
Along that course, look for ways to make your holidays more meaningful instead of more full of stuff. Pay attention, it is likely your next get together will have multiple people, all in the same room, looking at their personal electronics. As a result of this trend, it could be an idea to have “no tech zones” or “tech-free time,” to help gently refocus your family on each other. Creating boundaries up front can help everyone to be aware of the gift of full attention. Having some fun no-tech activities planned can help family members cope with the reduced electronic stimulation. Do not become discouraged if not everyone is excited about this change, refocusing takes time to develop. Stick with it, and continue to align your activity to what you value.
This holiday season, as you identify your giving philosophy, consider the gift of your time. Look for how often things are purchased for people, instead of actually spending time with them. Often, especially with the older set, your time and full attention would mean much more. All this is not to say buying gifts is somehow bad. Gift giving can be very rewarding and healthy, especially giving gifts to kids or a special person. However, by putting more thought, than money into the gifting, you honor the true heart of giving. Even if you do not have large amounts of extra time, when you choose to spend time together, your friends and family will feel and appreciate the “gift” you share with them. The memories created during that time, will last a lifetime, they will become priceless.