When I was a kid, Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive. I would make lists of what I wanted and even mailed a few off to Santa with the help of my mom, and then wait excitedly to see if he got the message. Sometimes he did and sometimes I just couldn’t figure out what he was thinking!
Some of my favorite gifts as a kid were a Daisy BB gun, a slot car racing track, a train set, a ball glove, and even a bike. There were books, GI Joes, and the occasional gifts of clothing – you can never have too many pairs of underwear or socks!
In those grade school years, I’d wait anxiously willing myself to go to sleep so I could wake up early. I’d try to beat my sisters and parents getting up only to be thwarted by being unable to fall asleep from being excited. Those are fun memories that come back to me when I bake cookies, pies, and cakes for family gatherings now.
As I’ve gotten older, Christmas seems to come faster and faster each year. The marketing of course starts earlier and earlier as retailers look to get the jump, but it almost seems like someone keep moving the date forward.
The gifts have changed a lot since I was a kid. There are shirts and sweaters along with the occasional tie (I don’t wear them much anymore), or books (one of my favorite gifts). I also receive gift cards which I save to buy a coveted piece of backpacking gear such as a new pack (this year), or sleeping bag, or tent.
I enjoy these gifts, but I’ve come to the place where I enjoy the gifts I receive, but I don’t really need anything. It’s not that there aren’t things I want such as a replacement for a black sweater I wore out or a new book I want to read, but I don’t have any “needs” at this moment.
The best gifts aren’t even things that can be wrapped in pretty paper and adorned with a bow. The gifts I’m referring to are the faith, love, hope, joy, and gratitude. These gifts are manifested in relationships; with my wife, my kids and hers, family – both biological and the kind of family that evolves from close, deep friendships that have gone through rough and good times with people that care about me and that I care about deeply.
Gifts like these are felt in the warmth of a smile, a look, holding a granddaughter or grandson, the embrace of a friend, and my wife’s hand finding mine as we walk. They are evident in a great conversation, the encouragement of a friend after a lousy day, a funny birthday card or get well note, and watching with pride as our kids become parents and become the adults we’ve dreamed of.
One of my favorite quotes is by Art Buchwald; “The best things in life aren’t things.” May your holiday season and the coming year be filled with the priceless and treasured gifts of love, friendship, healed relationships, a good cry, laughter, warm embraces, an encouraging text message. May you feel treasured, special, acknowledged, and respected. May you be generous in giving these gifts to other people and receive them back in a way that takes your breath away.