This post originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Parent News. Find it here!
There are two mason jars on my kitchen counter. In one there are colored slips of paper. The other holds money.
In the first, we write little things that made us happy or things we’re thank for throughout the year. On New Year’s Eve we go through those notes and remember the good moments from the past year. It’s amazing how much you forget!
In the second jar we stash spare coins and dollars, also throughout the year. It typically comes from my husband’s daily change or goodies I find in pockets on laundry day. I won’t lie. Sometimes I have to borrow from that jar for things like lunch money, but by December, it gets pretty full.
We take that money to a local coin machine and cash it in. We use that money to buy presents for children in need. Our church hosts an “Angel Tree” where little angels are literally hung on a Christmas tree in the lobby. On each angel is the gender and age of a child. You purchase presents, then return them. We love doing it and truly look forward to it every year.
What happens, though, when you don’t have extra money? Or when you’re the one in need? Can you still give?
When holiday giving has nothing to do with gifts
What comes from us doesn’t have to cost money. It doesn’t even have to have a high monetary value. Sometimes the gift we have to give comes from somewhere else.
When I sit here this holiday season thinking about the people close to my heart, not one wrapped package comes to mind. Some of those people have been with me my entire life. Some came and went very quickly.
I had a friend in college who I met during my senior year. We worked together and she exuded joy and faith. It was impossible not to be drawn to her. At that time, I wasn’t very outward about my own faith. My prayers were in private. She and I spent many late nights talking, laughing, and crying. She taught me that it’s worth the risk of someone feeling uncomfortable when you pray, especially for them, in their presence. An expression of faith isn’t based on how it will be received. It’s based on one’s willingness to share good thoughts and intentions. While I haven’t seen her since the end of that year, her gift remains with me today. When I tell you, especially on Facebook, that I’m praying for you, I really am. If you want me to pray with you, I’ll do that too.
I have another friend I’ve known for 10+ years and see regularly. I don’t believe we’ve ever exchanged presents, but she did something for me that I’ll never forget. The year my father died, I just happened to see her while my family and I were together planning his funeral. When I told her our sad news, she embraced me with so much love and genuine compassion. Two days later, she came to the visitation with a special guest. When I asked her why she brought her daughter, who was only a few months old, she told me because she knew seeing a baby would make me smile. My friend was right. Her sweet little princess did, indeed, brighten that day, but so did her thoughtfulness.
And speaking of my dad – now, he did give me many presents. I remember many, but there was one I didn’t fully appreciate until he was gone. Every time I would tell him I loved him, he would reply, “I know you do. I love you, too.” When he passed suddenly, I didn’t have a second of doubt, “did he know how I felt?” I know he did. He told me so. It just took his absence for me to realize what a precious gift he had given – acknowledgement of love.
I’ve been blessed with so much kindness from people in my life and complete strangers. What moved them to connect with me? I’ll likely never know, but I do know I can do the same. You can too, no matter your financial situation.
Just remember during this holiday season that the best things you have to give don’t always come with a price tag. Your time, a thoughtful word, a hug, a phone call…it all counts.
Give generously to your friends, family, and those around you. People will remember, just as I do. And isn’t that the kind of gift we should always strive to give?
Want to read more? Check out the latest on the Myrtle Beach for Families blog.