The ads in the newspaper have gotten thicker. TV commercials are telling us to spend, buy, acquire more. Do it now because there are only X days until Christmas. We feel the pressure, temptation and excitement. Somehow we feel guilty if we don’t have the money to buy expensive things, or we hurt our financial situation if we buy things we can’t afford. It’s as if the more money we spend on our loved ones, the more we love them. Not true, of course. Do you remember what you got for Christmas or for your birthday when you were eight years old? Do you remember what your spouse gave you for your birthday four years after you married? I doubt it. The point is, what really matters are the relationships and the day-to-day interactions we have with each other. Think of your roles as wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, co-worker and volunteer and how you could enrich them.
Regarding your role as wife, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, provides useful input about expressing love to your partner. The author describes how different people express love in different ways. He identifies five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. Words of affirmation are verbal compliments or words of appreciation. Quality time is giving someone your undivided attention. Gifts are visual symbols of love. They can be expensive, free, purchased, found or made. Your physical presence in a time of crisis can be a gift. Acts of service include such things as cooking a meal, painting a room, vacuuming and washing dishes. They require thought, planning, time, effort and energy. Holding hands, kissing, embracing and massages are all ways for communicating marital love using physical touch. The point is, we need to know each other’s love language and express our love for our partner in the language by which he/she feels loved, and vice versa.
A story of gift giving and love occurs in O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi, which tells the story of a couple with no money to spend on Christmas gifts for each other. The young woman sells her most prized possession, her treasured long hair, to buy a gold chain for her husband for his sentimental, treasured watch. At the same time, he sells his prized watch in order to buy his wife special combs for her hair. The wise men, the magi, began the art of giving Christmas presents. While the young man and woman in the story may initially appear foolish, the sacrifices of their greatest treasures are the wisest in giving. They are the magi. In a similar way, we can use our resources, internal and external, to be wise when we give.
As mothers, we can remember the well-known Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” If you give your child a gift, he/she is happy for a day or two. Teach your child to give, and he/she’s happy for a lifetime. The giving is not just money or material things, but teaching them to give things like empathy, appropriate expressions of thoughts and feelings, friendship, gratitude and apologies. You can also apply the “love languages” concept to your child.
Here is a true story which happened recently. I gave my first-grade son a “gift” of kind, loving words on a sticky note in his lunchbox. He came home with his backpack filled with several creased papers, but had misplaced his folder. He couldn’t find his green crayon and had lost points on a worksheet for using the wrong—light green—color. My little angel also forgot his lunchbox at school and had lost the four quarters he was given this morning to buy a pencil sharpener for a fundraiser. Suddenly, he pulled out a crumpled piece of paper that he had stuffed in his pocket. It was the note that I had written telling him to have agreat day and that I loved him. Little did he realize he had just reciprocated the gift of feeling loved. Unlike all of the things he misplaced or forgot, he kept his little note safe and chose to share it with me.
It is also wise to include yourself on your gift list. Take care of yourself physically, spiritually and emotionally. Create more meaning and purpose in your life. The message in The Precious Present, by Spencer Johnson, M.D., is a great gift for yourself. It’s a short, beautiful story about the best present a person can receive— because anyone who receives such a gift is happy forever.
An old man tells of the precious present to a young boy who spends many years of his life trying to find out what it is. The boy, now a man, eventually figures out that the precious present is the present, as opposed to the past or future. He learns to be fully present in the moment and to accept his precious self. He is happy and passes on the precious present to his child.
So relax in your approach to shopping for gifts. Be present and savor the moments. In addition to the material gifts, think of things on the nonmaterial wish lists of family and close friends. Give a gift only you can give. TPW