When I was a young boy, Christmas was a magical time. Santa Claus, special church services, spiced smells, wonderful food and everyone in a happy mood. It was a festive time in our home. What wasn’t there to like?
But then, one year (and out of the blue in my young world) my mom told me I had to give everyone a present that upcoming Christmas. I was about 6 years old and had no money, how I’d pay for those presents was a problem. My family had always bought me gifts that must have cost them a fortune. I was at a loss about how to give back.
Mom explained that I was to get an allowance every week. It was 10 cents, a whole dime and I had to save it to buy Christmas presents. I had to work for my allowance by making my bed, doing dishes and vacuuming the house. By the time I went Christmas shopping, I can still remember, I had one whole dollar saved. Just one dollar to cover my mom, dad and seven siblings.
Even at six years old I knew it’d be close. We went to Stedman’s 5 to 10 cent store in town and a sales clerk helped me pick out gifts. She showed me combs for 10 cents each and I bought one for all the men in my family. The girls all got scarves, tiny little things, but very pretty. The scarves cost 15 cents each. All together, I had just enough.
But when Christmas morning came I felt swamped with embarrassment for my tiny gifts. And that embarrassment tripled when I looked over the larger presents my family had bought me in return.
Funny thing though, no one seemed really unhappy with their combs and scarves. They were all really glad that I’d thought of them that year, and for the very first time.
I know the expression “it’s the thought that counts” is old and overused, but there is such a basic truth in it. Don’t forget – whether you are the giver or the receiver – the thought, that good intention, is far more valuable than the item itself. It’s the love and the good feelings that make this holiday season (whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or whatever you may celebrate).
Give it with love: that’s the real present.