I remember watching a movie a few years ago….I can’t remember the name of the movie or much of the plot (if anyone knows which one I’m talking about then post a message/comment) but I remember one short scene that stuck with me. It was where a boy and a girl are walking on a beach and the boy was picking up stones and inspecting them. He told the girl that he is looking for a special stone to give his sister for her birthday as his family has a rule that for special occasions (birthdays etc) if you give a gift it has to be something you have either found or something you have made. But cannot be something you have bought.
I liked this idea very much and every time a friend would have a birthday or when Christmas would come around I would always think of this. Unfortunately the world is at a place where gift giving has often become more of a competition than an act of warmth these days. More often than not the focus is on the price of whatever was given which determines the value of the act.
This is never as evident than at the time of Christmas. It seems increasingly that Christmas is a time of year that becomes ever more painful as we grow older. Starting off as a day that we are counting down to in June as children, then quickly becoming the thing that creeps up on us like the deadline that it now is.
We know this is happening when we hear ourselves in our early 20’s saying “Christmas……already?” This is because we know what is to come, it means a lot of running around for gifts, a lot of headaches over what mediocre gifts to give to whom, booking venues, organizing events, the spending of more & more money that fewer and fewer of us seem to possess and generally feeling forced to contribute to the Christmas cheer and seasonal festivities, which is mostly a lot of showing off & actions of self-interest and very little genuine acts of true warmth & sincerity.
For adults Christmas is often a difficult, exhausting time of year. And what contributes most of all to this feeling of difficulty and pressure is the new commercially driven culture we are increasingly adopting of gift giving. It is quite incredible to realize that we have as a society managed to create a culture where we have forced ourselves into giving gifts that we cannot afford (and which the recipients often don’t really want). Just basically people spending money and handing over junk just to make sure they are keeping up with social norms.
This then poses the question “What is a gift?” and “What is the point of it?” I believe that you should give a gift only when you truly wish to do so and it should be given whole-heartedly. A gift is not really about the subject that has been exchanged but the intention and gesture behind it. This is the real beauty in gift giving. This is why I liked this scene in the movie, I like this “rule” that no gifts can be bought, only something found or something you have made yourself can be given. This puts the focus back into the act and away from the object.
So why struggle this year to hand over meaningless ipads & dvds….Why not make something for someone, yeah, with your own actual hands, or give them a special shell that you found on the beach, or write them a poem. I for one know that I would cherish a true gift like this so much more than another bargain bucket DVD of X Factor Auditions…..or even nothing at all and turn up to someone’s house with a genuine smile because you really are happy to see them.
Now believe it or not I’m no grinch. Christmas can be and should be a wonderful time of year to focus on true giving & warmth, not just to family and friends but to everyone. Get creative this Christmas, pour your creativity into something for someone & give a true gift. The aim should be to spend as little money as possible but invest as much time, love & creativity as you can devote. Try it with a group of friends this year and see how much more rewarding it is!
Merry Christmas and all that.
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