This time of year is all about giving. And getting. We make our lists, check them twice, and hope that something resembling stuff we want shows up in our lives on Christmas morning.
And we also hope that our loved ones don’t give us a fake, “I love it!” or worse, a sincere, “You didn’t get me what I want!” Sigh. The holidays can be rife with conflict and disappointment. Loneliness and despair. We all have stories of giving gone wrong. Or getting gone worse.
But there’s a different kind of giving that never really goes wrong, and even if it somehow does, you’re still better off for it. There is an entire school of thought out there that says if you want something for yourself, give it to someone else. For example, if you want more money in your life, be generous with the money you already have. If you want love and companionship, go out and give it to someone else and it will come back to you in even greater shares. We know that giving makes us feel better. But it’s possible that it actually makes our lives better.
When I was younger, I asked for jewelry and finery for gifts, but looking back, what I really wanted was something that didn’t come in a shiny box: I wanted time, attention, connection, a feeling of being valued. Does that mean I didn’t give it to others? Perhaps. But now those jewels can seem empty and meaningless. And what really provides that meaning and joy are special memories—the times I did give attention, shared my time, and created connection with others.
It’s the same with food. So many people keep longing for that next big, best, perfect thing—the hottest restaurant, the most expensive wine, the most unique dish. But what really linger are simple meals shared with loved ones—meals that taste of love. Love can make any meal delicious—no matter the cost, rarity, or location it’s shared in.
There’s always a place for finery and fabulousness, and for long and elaborate Christmas lists (just ask my kids!). But the real benefit and joy of giving comes from things that don’t cost a thing—undivided attention, listening, time, companionship, compassion, love, and more love. A genuine compliment. A poem! A special hug or kiss. Really looking into someone’s eyes and seeing them. And allowing yourself to be seen in return.
If you can remember that power of giving on Christmas morning, you will reap the gifts all year long.