I’ve seen a few ads this season encouraging holiday shoppers to buy something for themselves. Happy shoppers move swiftly down shop aisles or scroll quickly through websites to track down that perfect self-gift that will make them feel special.
A Black Friday shopping poll indicated that a substantial percentage of respondents had major plans for “self-gifting,” echoing these appeals.
I’ve had a rather different experience.
I recently spent a morning with a wonderful group of (mostly) women at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Avon Lake, Ohio, and an immense quantity of gift-wrapped packages. The project was to sort the many gifts into the appropriate family, group home or community center groups, then bag them up for delivery in time to delight children who otherwise would have a very dreary Christmas. Each gift was coded by family and labeled with the child’s name. Each table in the hall was labeled with the various family codes, with the children’s names listed below. The happy volunteers moved swiftly through the hall, picking up gift packages from one table, navigating across the hall until they found the right family code, then checking the child’s name against the list before placing the gift on the table.
Once the gifts were distributed, the second wave of activity began. The family code and child name on each package was matched once more against the family code and child name on the list on the table. Then the packages were bagged up, tagged and brought to the lobby for loading and transport.
The only thing missing: Santa’s elves and a reindeer-drawn sleigh.
The founder of this annual effort has been doing it for more than two decades. Though I didn’t get the chance to meet her, I understand that she’s an energetic octogenarian with a smile and a twinkle worthy of Old St. Nick himself.
I don’t mean to take anything away from those who take the time for self-care, especially those who find this season difficult because they are alone. My wish for you is to find joy and comfort. If a gift you choose for yourself can provide this, then it’s time to go shopping.
There also is something to be said for lifting our spirits by lifting those of others.
I won’t see any of the scores of children unwrap the toys and clothes I helped sort and bag. I won’t hear their shouts of joy and laughter. I won’t witness the relief and tears flowing from struggling parents (or grandparents, or house parents) who feared having to explain why Santa didn’t stop by this year.
I don’t need to.
My wonderful wife and children fuss at me this time of year, because my gift list is so spare. And sure, there are some things I’d like to have that might make my work life easier or my free time more freeing.
But nothing I’ve ever received can compete with knowing that, somewhere, there is someone whose life is a little brighter, a little better, because of something I was able to do. If they don’t know I did it, that’s all the better.
Because the purest joy of this season is in gifting, in giving freely, without expectation of return.
May this be the gift and the joy you receive.
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