In the rush of the holidays, we forget that there are gifts of the spirit to give -- things that have value but not monetary value. You cannot buy these things; you can only give them.
#1 The gift of time
Time is among the most valuable things we can give. Write out a gift certificate for time.
.....Give a friend a gift certificate for X amount of hours of free babysitting.
.....Give your spouse a certificate for a "Get Out of Chores " Free Day.
.....Give an older relative a gift certificate for X number of free sessions helping with housework or yardwork
.....Give a neighbor a certificate for X number of free pies, or cakes, or kettles of soup or whatever you cook well.
.....Give the kids a certificate for a time convenient to everyone where you take them on a picnic in the park -- or to the zoo -- or skating -- you know the time-spend that will make them happiest.
Noni, a grandmother, writes about the gift of time she got from her daughter:
I have come to believe with all my heart the greatest gift a person can give or receive is the gift of time and attention...I just received the gift of a visit with my Little Man and his Mom. Spur of the moment... Since their move to Virginia last year, spur of the moment visits are not in the bag too frequently anymore. But, I would drop anything and run for just a short visit with these two.
Ronnie Bennett talks about the gift of time to elders in our lives with many fine ideas. Here are a few of the many she listed:
As necessary as it sometimes becomes, giving up driving is a horrendous loss of freedom. But that is an opportunity for many kinds of gifts of time. You can create gift certificates for a monthly restaurant meal together. Or regular trips to the mall or grocery store or the movies or theater. You could plan a vacation to include your elder for next summer. Perhaps there are old friends nearby that he or she hasn't seen in person in a long time. . .Elders have a lifetime of stories to tell, but many don't think they can write them. Offer to help write their life story. Pull out the photo albums to spark memories. Or you could interview your grandmother and write the story yourself. She would enjoy telling the stories and then you would have them for the grandchildren.
#2 The gift of a kind word
Through the holiday season we will have many opportunities to snap off some quick remark to someone. Vow to stop yourself as much as you can, and to say one deliberately kind thing to someone each day. Just one. And do it every day until the New Year. My guess is that after you take the time to be deliberate about it, not just letting kindness be a part of your nature, but consciously choosing an opportunity for it -- that you will find yourself searching out ways to be kind. Give yourself the gift of a journal entry about the experience each day.
As Leo Buscaglia said: "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
#3 The gift of renewing contact
We all have a short list of people with whom we have gotten out of touch. You know how that goes. After a while it almost feels embarrassing to pick up the phone and bridge a gap that unintentionally got too long. This is so wonderful to do. Go through your address book and select a one person or more people from whom you have needlessly fallen away. Then call them. Don't email, call. Anyone can click on Facebook or Classmates -- do something special and call. That way you can hear the joy in each other's voices.
#4 The gift of a mended fence
Look over your heart's list of hurts. See if there is one there that you can let go of. Maybe you need to forgive someone. Or maybe you need to apologize. Do what it takes to repair what is broken, if you can. At least make an attempt to mend the fence. Whether you have good luck or not so good with this effort, you will have cleansed your soul and heart of a burden. And, even if you do not get immediate results, those actions done from love usually will bear fruit - if not now, later. And who knows, perhaps the person you contact has been waiting just for this call.
Lindsay speaks at length about how she learned to apologize and why she is teaching her children to apologize. She mentions that at first, apologizing may sound awkward, but -- "Although it seems forced, I think just getting the words out is good practice. The more you do it, the easier it is. I want those apologetic sentences at the ready for them. I want to give them the tools to have fulfilling and communicative relationships throughout their lives, and I think learning the humility to apologize is a good first step."
#5 The gift of an open family
Not everyone you know has a place to go for the holidays, or a family with which to celebrate. Look around the folks you know. Think which one you can invite for the holidays, or for sharing a small piece of it. Maybe is is someone who experienced a recent loss, or a hard break-up. Maybe you invite them for dinner, or to join you for dessert, or to help your family decorate the house, or to help light the candles.
I am a big fan of spiritual gifts. In fact, I have made arrangements with all my friends that we do not exchange traditional Christmas gifts. Our gift to each other is to remove ourselves from each other's "Holiday Stress List". We know we love each other. Birthday gifts are fine. They are even fun! But I don't want to be part of someone's exhaustion or financial burden at Christmas. But, if money must be spent on friends, here are 5 ways to do it with spirit:
1. Donate to a charity in the name of all your gift recipients. Tell them what you did.
2. Get a group of friends together to go grocery shopping for the local food pantry. This will be your gift to each other. Make a special event out of it.
3. Call a local shelter and see what sorts of warm clothing they may need. Give what you can from your closet. But then, get friends/family to pool money to go to the local Salvation Army or Goodwill or church thrift store. Buy as many coats, scarves, sweaters in excellent condition as your funds will allow. Drop them off at the shelter.
4. Your local Salvation Army may have a list of children to "adopt" by getting them Christmas gifts. Ask if you can buy gifts for one of them. Make this your gift to and from a friend by doing it with her/him. Share the experience of buying for a child you will never know with a dear friend.
5. Make it a tradition to exchange one Christmas ornament each year. Just one ornament will limit the expense, but will also create a loving tradition between you.
What steps have you taken to give from the spirit this year or in the past? Any idea to share that felt particularly wonderful? Please leave a comment!
Mata H, CE for Religion & Spirituality, also blogs at Time's Fool
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