So we’re in the throes of the giving and receiving holiday: what am I going to get, did I think of everyone, did I spend enough or too much, yada, yada.
You probably know by now that I love to feel good and I’m sticking to it. What makes me feel wonderful and alive and clear and joyous, especially at this time of year, is giving. Giving with absolutely zero thought of what I might be rewarded with in return. Surprise giving is super fun and easy.
This year one of the things I loved doing was preparing a 25 day advent gift surprise for my kids, sending them a big box of individually wrapped goodies and special things, one for each day from December 1 – 25. Since our family has given up gift giving completely over the last handful of years, this was a total surprise to them and it was fun for me because I got to use my imagination and revel in the fun they would have. The best part of it for me was knowing that I would not receive any sort of present in return. It’s just so much more fun to give!
Giving anonymously is also so gratifying, because it delivers the extreme pleasure of knowing the recipient will feel like there is a real Santa, wondering who gave them this gift and lapsing into the fantasy that gifts just drop out of sleds in the sky, right through the chimney. I try to do as much of this as I can. One of my favorite memories when my kids were in their early teens was this: we all got wrapped up in this anonymous gift giving fantasy and chose two families for whom we made and shopped for unique gifts for each member. We wrapped each gift in old timey Santa-like wrapping and put each family’s bundle of gifts in a big, handmade red velour Santa sack and tied each off with a big red satin bow. We could hardly wait to secretly drop the bags off on their respective front porches in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve! Honestly, I think we had more fun with this than the recipient families did because it was SO much fun. In other years, sometimes we just choose dogs in the ‘hood to deliver anonymous dog toys to!
Photo courtesy of weddingmusings
I gladly gave up the wondering about what I would get several years ago- when I realized that I could have whatever, whenever (yes, we’re on a budget. It’s a state of mind.). Why wait until Christmas? It felt forced and ridiculous to stockpile wishes for a single day of gluttony rather than feeling worthy any old day of the year. And that’s when I really felt the burn to give. GIVE.
I was just talking with a friend today about our desire to volunteer and help in virtually any capacity in a hands-on way. I don’t want to donate to a telethon or send a few dollars a month to ‘adopt’ a child in Africa. It’s just not the same. And yet it is virtually impossible to find volunteer opportunities to which I can bring my children (who love to volunteer).
There were a couple of years that we chose a child or two’s lists from a community giving holiday tree and had a wonderful time shopping for the items on their list. We’d imagine what they looked like and how much excitement or warmth (or both!) our purchases would bring them.
I was recently inspired by a friend’s Facebook post that she had bought a gift card at the register and asked the cashier to apply it to the purchase of the person behind her in line. She was inspired to pay forward an act of kindness previously done unto her. I thought, I can do that! Then I started thinking about other ways of giving directly but anonymously. It was refreshing to think that everyone delights in random acts of kindness and that I didn’t have to seek out organizations or people who meet a specific level of need. Generosity feels amazing and is contagious. It really gives us the much-needed perspective that we always have enough to share. Have you seen The Long Way Down? I am reminded of African families in their dirt floor huts out in the bush eagerly sharing their bits of food with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. No matter who you are, it feels good to give and share.
But one question often eats at me around the holidays – why not all year? When I was young, little unexpected gifts showed up often in my shoes- whenever. It was so magical. My mother seemed just as amazed as I but I now suspect she was the anonymous giver… and loved every minute of it.
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