I've had several conversations during the past couple of weeks that have revolved around the act of gift giving. Both at work and at home, given there's only a couple of weeks left before Christmas Day, it's been a topic of much discussion.
It saddens me, however, that many people seem to be over the whole idea.
No, most of us don't need more stuff. Yes, most of us are too busy to squeeze in a trip to the shops.
Artwork: Sally Dunbar.
But people, it's not about the receiving, it's about the giving. Humbugs.
Apparently Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give”, and I like to live by that credo this time of year. Even though I'm sure it wasn't really what he was talking about, if indeed it was him who said it.
Really, if all I'm getting on Christmas Day are smiles and hugs from my family and friends who have been touched by the gift I've bought them, then all will be good.
Artwork: Sally Dunbar.
In a world where we don't give each other enough of what really matters – and that's our time – there's something about taking five or 10 minutes online, or a day at the shops if that's what it takes, to stop and think about what someone else might like – even if they don't really need it.
Come October, and if I were truly organised I'd be doing it all year, I start to think about family and friends a little more. If I read a book I think my brother-in-law might like, or see a shirt for my nephew, or hear someone mention they need new salt-and-pepper shakers, I tuck all these things away in the present drawer section of my brain, and if I were truly organised I'd actually have a present drawer.
We Kris Kringle in my family. There's too many of us to be buying for everyone and this year, being the fool who offered to host Christmas Day, I got to set the rules. We're having a surprise Kringle, where no one knows who it is who is buying for them. That will be part of the fun to see if we can figure out who got what.
Some colleagues here at work are stuck on what to get family who have everything. I've offered a few suggestions. Sometimes it's fun to set yourself a $20 limit. The less, the better the present sometimes – more thought. And there's always the charitable option of pigs, toilets and soccerballs. Or make something, whether it be food, or craft, or something a little more complex if you're a hand at the woodworking table. Or offer to do something, babysit, mow lawns, wash cars, clean gutters, cook dinners.
But in the end, the greatest gift we can all give to those who matter to us is our attention and time and love and compassion. Christmas is a time for beginnings and forgiveness and coming together.
But as altruistic as I sound, there's nothing better than unwrapping something that's a surprise. Even if you've had to shop for yourself, there's always one little box under the tree that's unknown.
And in a lot of ways, Christmas can signify that too, the anticipation of the unknown, the joy that can bring.