“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Giving gifts is an art, and art is something that takes time and care. Time is a precious resource these days, so I’m looking for ways to save it and savour it.
My word for the year 2015 is breathe. I was surprised to find that by setting an intention and by writing about it (and informing thousands of people about it!), I felt more accountable to myself. The word breathe is about stopping – getting off the hamster wheel to actually enjoy what I’m doing.
To honour the commitment that I made to myself I have decided to decrease the pressure to give. I’m exhausted by the lists – the long lists of people I feel an obligation to buy gifts for, spending too much time searching on-line or in a crowded mall for a token that doesn’t necessarily represent how I feel. I’m tired out by the act of giving just for the sake of giving.
After reading copious amounts on the subject from various experts here are some of the best ideas that I have found that can help me to stick to my resolution to breathe better this holiday season, and ultimately become a better giver.
- Communicate – Talk to friends and family about reducing the gifts being exchanged. Come to an arrangement to give what feels good because if the giving starts to feel onerous or like a chore, it’s not good for anyone. It may be setting a budget or agreeing to nix gifts altogether. Either way if all parties are on-board chances are everyone will be breathing easier.
- Make Charitable Donations – Giving a sum to your favourite charity in lieu of gifts will reduce your shopping list and educate others on a cause that’s near and dear to your heart.
- Think Small- It’s most important to remember that gifts that come from the heart are truly the best to receive. My sister-in-law observed the sad state of my water bottle at a workout and for my birthday presented me with a new one. I was once at a yoga class with a friend and my bangs, in the process of growing out, kept falling in my eyes. The next time I saw her, she passed me a tiny gift bag and inside was a headband. Whenever my husband gives me a book, I know that he must love me because he endured shopping in a bookstore. Thoughtful gifts don’t have to cost a lot of money but they show someone how much you care, and in our busyness we sometimes forget to tell people how we really feel about them.
- Give the Gift of Experience – While some say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend or that good things come in small packages, it’s rarely been the credit card crushing gift that puts a smile on my face. My favourite gifts to both give and receive are experiences. Setting time aside to do something special with someone far out-weighs the value of anything that can be purchased in a store. My brother and I retired gifts years ago and instead on special occasions treat each other to dinner out, usually somewhere fabulous. It’s a chance to reconnect without the kids in tow and more often than not something spontaneous happens to make the evening extra special. The morning of my birthday, a friend called me and asked me to meet her at the local nail bar after dropping the kids at school. For 90 glorious minutes we chatted while being pampered and I left feeling loved. Come birthday and Christmas my aunt forgoes the junk at the toy store and instead sends us a season’s worth of tickets to Young People’s Theatre. Knowing that I have four dates with my boys each theatre season is something I look forward to as much as they do.
- Make it, Bake it, Give it with pride and love. There are also the homemade gifts for which I am always so grateful. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture like a hand-knitted sweater, but the simple things are often the most loved. Favourite cookies wrapped and left on the doorstep or a dinner to pop into the freezer, often produce a smile. Last year, Nathalie made lip balm and every night I put it on and I think of her and how much I love knowing that she made it! Every night I think about her and I am grateful for our friendship.
- Learn To Say Thank You – This is a tough one. Do you know that awkward moment when someone hands you a gift and you have nothing to hand over in return? I’ve been there, and I am embarrassed to admit that I’ve muttered a fib about forgetting their gift and then over-compensating BIG TIME after the fact. Brene Brown writes a lot about relinquishing guilt, and she would suggest simply saying “Thank you for thinking of me” and moving on, leaving the woulda, coulda, shoulda behind. Learning to be a gracious receiver of gifts is difficult because for most us it feels uncomfortable to receive without giving. Saying a kind thank you is also a gift, though, and receiving a gift puts you only under the obligation to express genuine gratitude. Say it in person or by mail, and leave the guilt behind.