During these final days before Christmas, rather than hustle with the bustle to buy more things, consider giving meaningful gifts from the heart. They cost only our time, energy and a bit of focus, but they last.
Gift of forgiveness: for others and for ourselves. Forgiveness is really giving up the anger and hurt and betrayal of something someone said or did to us. It’s giving that to God, or a higher power, and letting go of the bitterness.
It doesn't mean that we're a doormat, or that we plaster on a fake smile. We can acknowledge that we have been wronged, and set a boundary in how we deal with the person to feel emotionally safe. But it does mean that we are genuinely trying to let go of negativity and approach the issue or person with love and clarity.
And that forgiveness extends to us. I recently re-read “Believing Christ” by Stephen Robinson, in which he relates an experience when his young son had misbehaved and Robinson had put him in a timeout. And then forgot about him. Robinson tells with painful honesty that hours later, his son finally comes out and asks if they can be friends again. As parents, we all have had those — what I call “Loser Parenting Moments” — after which we can, thankfully, do all that is possible to make it right and then move forward.
Gift of Joy. How often are we Christmas shopping and yet are met with frowning faces, focused and concentrating, needing to get the deal and get back home for the next event? A few simple things can add deeper joy, such as to smile — especially at the grocery store, the dentist, and particularly the post office.
Or to say “Merry Christmas!”— in our PC environment, we don't often hear that anymore. But I enjoy the oldie movies where everyone is openly wishing each other a Merry Christmas (and even smiling when they do it).
Or serve spontaneously. Don't worry if someone will be offended — it’s right to do a kind thing. Help pick up that package, open that door, or pay for someone's parking meter. One year our family traveled back East on vacation and all eight of us went to a restaurant. When it came time to pay for the meal, we found to our surprise that someone had picked up the tab, and wished us a Merry Christmas (maybe smiling as they did it).
Gift of Listening. Too many people feel unheard and unseen in today's world. So just listen. When someone is sharing about their day, take it in and then respond. Even if you have the most urgent news to tell, even if it's only for five minutes, even if they don’t know they received this gift — simply listen.
Gift of Love. Find a way to express love to those that matter most. This year I began a new tradition of writing a Christmas letter to five different people, thanking them and sharing why they had been influential in my life during the year. I can’t tell you how meaningful this has been. Writing each letter has been a joyful, cathartic, gratitude-filled process that I am now doing for each of my children to put in their stocking.
Gift of Gratitude. Each of us has much to be thankful for — much that goes unnoticed or unappreciated. As we think and feel what we're grateful for, a physiological, as well as emotional, change takes place. Suddenly, we feel more peace, contentment, and true happiness because of the existing love and goodness found in our lives.
Forgiveness, joy, listening, love, and gratitude — these are gifts we can give, and receive, and that don’t cost a dime.
Connie Sokol is an author, presenter, TV contributor and mother of seven. Contact her at www.conniesokol.com.