Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gifts Are Not Always Tangible

Ever since Thanksgiving, I have been consumed by shopping for gifts.  I always think I'll get the job done faster online by avoiding the traffic and crowds, but I still spend a ridiculous amount of time scrolling through thousands of gift ideas.  Then once I actually find a gift idea that might work, I have to dig around to see if there are better prices, better brands, better colors, better designs, and coupons for the item.  I think that usually a minimum of two hours passes between the time that I find the item I want to get, and the time I actually purchase it because I am always convinced that there is something I'm missing.  I read the descriptions and reviews repeatedly to make sure it won't be something I will have to return for one reason or another.  When I realize that my browsing trek began at sunrise, and now the sun is setting, I wonder if it would have been simpler to just shop locally.

I've been criticized in the past for "not putting much thought into the person" who I am giving the gift to, but what people don't realize is that I obsess over it so much that I wind up just grabbing something -- anything in order to have a gift to give them, because otherwise I would go insane.  So, criticizing my gift choices is never a good idea, because all it does is make me more neurotic than I already am.  Plus, when people complain about my gift choices, it makes me not want to give them gifts in the future.  I had a relative make fun of me for the gift I gave him last Christmas, so I purposefully ignored his birthday.  I didn't want him calling me to abuse me over my gift choice.  The irony was that he got so incensed over me "forgetting" his birthday that he tried to blackmail some money out of me.  Apparently, he felt like I owed him.  Yes, I have some jerks in my family.  No amount of modelling from perfect parents and Cotillion classes could teach them how to behave in a civilized, none-the-less gracious, manner.

My mother was the family Saint, always appreciative and prepared with the perfect thing to say about the gift.  I always felt like I was floating on air for days after I gave her a gift.  As a result, I made, bought, and wrapped dozens of gifts for her every chance I got.  I knew that my efforts improved her days.  The irony of it all was that after she passed away, I found a whole bunch of gifts I bought her shoved in a closet with price tags still attached, so I knew she really didn't like the gifts.  She just liked being thought of and cared for.

That's what it's about, isn't it?  Showing others that they matter to you?  So, if someone communicates that you matter to them, shouldn't the effort be welcomed and encouraged?  I am always touched when someone I barely know, or someone I didn't consider, gives me a gift.  They can give me a lump of coal, and I'm grateful and humbled by the fact that I was even on their radar screen.

Despite the crowds out shopping, part of the holiday season includes giving of yourself to strangers.  It's hard to remember this when we are so busy scrambling to find gifts for relatives and friends.  My husband and I always feel sorry for the cashiers in stores who have to keep the long lines moving, and have to deal with all the grumpy shoppers and their complaints, so we ask them how they are doing and make small talk with them, letting them know that we are interested in their lives and how their day is going.  We don't hold up the line like a lot of retired people do telling their own life stories to cashiers long past the time when their items were rung up and paid for, but we just take a minute to let the person who is helping us check out know that we see them as a human being and not a machine.  We do the same with restaurant servers.  Sometimes a little conversation and human connection can make the day more bearable.

There are a lot of people who normally don't drive out traversing the roads buying gifts for others, and while their driving maneuvers can be dangerous and infuriating, we try to be patient and not give in to the urge to honk, extend middle fingers, or whip around them while shaking our fists.  Still, we see a lot of other drivers behaving that way.  We are hearing more sirens, which alerts us to the fact that someone is having a bad day.  Probably the best gift we can give to others is to simply help them have a good day by not making it worse.

When my mother passed away, I was humbled by the number of people who wrote letters and attended her funeral who all said the exact same thing about her -- that she was kind, generous, and her love was unconditional.  I can attest to all of that, because I was her daughter.  I experienced a countless number of times when she was kind to me when I didn't deserve it.  And she was not a meek woman.  This kindness was not a weakness, but a strength.

It was then that I realized that when we die, all that really matters is how we treated others.  Our goals and accomplishments are secondary.  So, I've been trying to remember to choose kindness over whatever else is going on in my head and heart.  It takes a tremendous amount of filtering and self-control to practice kindness, especially when others may not be treating you well, but the rewards are phenomenal when you do.


achieve1dream said...

I love this post! This is the true meaning of Christmas. Not gifts, but love, caring, kindness and understanding. :)

TeresaA said...

terrific post and well said!

Katharine Swan said...

Absolutely! It's about generosity of spirit, not generosity with money. :)

fernvalley01 said...

wise words my friend, mys sister works in retail, and I swear she deserves an award for not snapping some peoples heads off, but ride and demanding as they can be she always smiles and tries her best. I see that and alwasy try to be nice and non demanding to folks in the stores.I had one incident years ago that a lady was berating staff about only one till being open , I was in line ahead of her and I stepped back and let her go so whatever bee was up her but might be soothed.It cost me nothing but a couple of minutes but it made her day better and that of the staff, funny that one act , caused the rest of the people in line to settle and we all chatted while we waited

Crystal said...

That is so true, my Mom is a super nice kind person and I can only hope one day I am like her but it is not easy.
I actually worked in a toy store at Christmas as my first job. Boy people are nuts but I really loved the job even the cranky people and the lady whos baby peed on my counter. LOL I am so glad I am not there anymore I think it would not be as much fun now