Thursday, December 18, 2008

'tis the season for giving

I am proud of myself for having completed ALL of my Christmas gift shopping in a 24 hour period.

This was easily accomplished by the fact that I decided to only give physical, store-bought, traditionally wrapped Christmas gifts to my family members. Given my family make-up, this consists of my parents, step-parents, and stepsister and her son. I don't usually buy Christmas gifts for my stepsister or her three year old son, but she's going through some hard times these days, and he's my only nephew even though he's a step-nephew and we're not blood related, so I decided that I could buy some books for her to read to him :)

I'm very pleased with my decision to drastically cut back on my Christmas shopping. It was a hard decision, because I absolutely love giving and receiving gifts, but it wasn't such a hard decision because I don't really enjoy Christmas shopping. This seems like a contradiction, but it's not when you you think about. I love giving birthday gifts, having one special friend or family member to think about, brainstorming about what they would love, what would show that I cared, what gift would just delight and thrill her or him. It's a fun process, and I find it fulfilling to give a meaningful gift.

But multiply that one special someone by about 15, add the stress of finals into the mix, subtract funds because I'm a graduate student and most of my friends have real jobs and salaries 2/3/4 times mine, and add the crowds of the malls into the mix, and suddenly, gift-giving isn't so fun. When it comes time to buy Christmas gifts, I usually wait until after finals, and am then rushing to try to buy something for about 15 different people, and when there's that many people to consider, it's overwhelming to really spend time to decide on a meaningful gift for each one of them. I try my best, but usually wind up buying whatever strikes me for some of these folks. For the past few years, Christmas gift giving has become more stressful than it should be, and not the meaningful gift-giving that I would like it to be. I really, really like giving Christmas gifts to my friends, but it's the shopping for them that I don't enjoy.

An out presented itself when one of my high school friends (who I often shop for) suggested that instead of giving gifts to one another, we buy polo t-shirts for the poor students at her school where she teaches who's families cannot afford more than 2-3 uniforms for them. We all decided that this was a swell idea, and in addition to bringing food and drink and games to my annual New Year's Party, my friends are also bringing shirts to donate to her school. I think that this is a terrific idea that gives to others while relieves us of the stress of buying gifts for one another!

I still am trying to stay in the giving spirit toward those that I love. My mom and I have baked candies that I've given to some of my friends already, I'm spending time with them, enjoying their, helping them make Christmas gifts for their loved ones, helping them make dinner, trying on bridesmaids dresses with them, throwing them a wonderful New Year's Eve party. Even if I'm not giving them the traditional Christmas gift this year, I believe that I'm giving a lot of love, and a lot of myself to these dear ones. More than the funds, it's the time from not shopping that I feel most relieved to have back. My time is very loose these days, and that's rare for me, so I feel free to spend time with my family, my friends, and for myself, planning my upcoming trip to Europe, reading, and relaxing. This gift of time, for others and for myself, has been invaluable this Christmas season. I don't think that Christ ever intended us to stress ourselves out and empty our wallets to buy things that we really don't need when the word became flesh and made its dwelling among us. I'm sure I could be doing more this advent season to honor Christ and serve and love those around me, but, well, there's no but, there's no sense in wasting words to justify myself.

I've settled in quite well to the slower pace of this year's Christmas break. Wake up around 9 or 10. Pray and read my Bible. Check my email. Eat some breakfast. Maybe take a shower around noon, unless I somewhere to be earlier than that. Spend the afternoon with a friend, or my mom, planning my trip, or running errands like getting a hair cut or my car fixed. Come home. Eat dinner. Make candy, attend a church event with my mom, eat dinner with my dad, watch a movie, or simply relax together with my family. Stay up too late on the internet, and go to bed. It's a much slower pace than I'm used to, and I'd prefer to do more social things in the evenings, but I've decided to enjoy this time for what it is. It's rare that I actually have time to be bored, so I figure I should embrace it, boredom and loneliness and all, and it's really not as boring or lonely as I first expected. I do have some school-related things that I'm currently procrastinating, and next week is Christmas, the following week is New Year's, and then I'm flying across the ocean, so things will be hopping soon enough.

I've made most of my major purchases that I will be packing to prepare for the winter winds in Europe - the biggest one being a long, past my knees, black, poofy, down-filled, coat, and others being fake ugg boots, gloves, hat, thermal underwear, and a lovely black sweater dress with purple, black, and grey argyle tights that I plan to wear Christmas Eve, to the opera in Berlin, and probably back home seeing clients. I've got a few more random purchases at the the grocery to make, and I think the woman who is hosting me in Berlin wants some things from the US, but clothing-wise, I should be nice and warm. Texas weather has kindly dropped down to temperatures colder than Europe to help prepare me for the chill that I will soon face. It's not going to be an unbearable cold, but as I'll be spending a lot of my time wandering around outside, it's good to be bundled up and prepared. That is, as prepared as one can be for an adventure that is not yet written, an adventure that makes me feel excited and a little nervous but mostly thrilled to be a participant of.


The Pensive Poet said...

That's neat that in lieu of gifts you and your friends are giving polos to children in need. I've wondered about what to do for friends this year. While I want to show them they're special to me, I also feel caught in this trap of mindlessly hunting for something to give people. I hate that feeling. I love giving meaningful gifts. It's always awkward, too, because you don't know who is getting you a gift and who isn't. But I guess it's important to overlook all the stress of Christmas and focus on the kindheartedness and peace it represents.

Cara said...

Good words, Britt and Kelly, on giving during the holidays.

Time and support really is the best give one can give. Over the years I've received many gifts from many people, and honestly I can't name too many of them when pressed. But I can recall many specific memories of feeling loved and supported by family and friends.

Enjoy the slow pace. I have a feeling you won't have too many seasons of slowness after you graduate. I'm glad this can be a relaxing and peaceful break where you're able to enjoy some things you normally don't have time for.