Perspectives on Christmas

26 Dec

Image Source: http://www.fantom-xp.com/en_35_~_Christmas_magic_laptop_backgrounds.html

At 14 and 10, my nephews are at challenging ages to shop for. When they were younger, I could hit an easy  home run by springing for the one gift on their wish list that they were sure even Santa wouldn’t bring.

Now, however, their tastes run more expensive. While I could afford to pull the “Crazy Aunt” card and get them the electronics they’re pining after, I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to keep up with the Joneses.

So yesterday morning, while we waited for my sister and her family to arrive at my parents’ home, I looked at their wrapped gifts under the tree and had second thoughts. I imagined them opening my presents, then looking at me with the eager eyes of puppies, convinced I had hidden their “big” gifts as some sort of game.

After gifts had been opened, however, I realized my second guessing had been ridiculous. Although we tend to go a bit sparse on the gifts compared to many, we were still surrounded by much, much more than most people in other countries would even dream of.

And – silly me – I’d forgotten: they’re not *those* kinds of kids. They appreciate what they have. So if there was disappointment, they did a good job not showing it and only expressing gratitude for what they had received. Besides, once we started playing some board games together (Taboo and Smartass, to name a few), the pile of “loot” was even less important.

~~~

Meanwhile, I wondered about another Christmas scene unfolding some 500 miles away.

Continuing one of my favorite traditions, my friend Betsy and I adopted a local DC family for Christmas. It’s a win-win-win as far as I’m concerned: I can indulge my urge to do some legitimate Christmas shopping (since I tend to either make donations or shop for my nephews online), spend time with a good friend, and do something truly in the spirit of the season.

This year a mother, a father and their two-year-old son comprised the Alexandria, Virginia-based family we had adopted. The program’s coordinator emailed us their wish list and included a note, “They’re a nice young family, working hard to make ends meet.”

So three weeks ago we walked to Target and picked out some nice outfits, toys, a few things for their home and a generous gift card. The gifts looked lovely when wrapped – enough to neatly fill the space beneath a tree come Christmas morning.

Although they’re down on their luck, I hope they were able to forget it for a day – and carry with them the knowledge that they aren’t in it alone, that people really do care.

~~~

Image Source: http://bloggingtothemaxey.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/coexist1.png

Then, as I got ready for bed to put an end to my Christmas Day, I happened to see a story on the news about Mitzvah Day in Detroit.

Talk about a lovely idea… Jews and Muslims work with church groups in the Detroit area and go around playing Santa, taking toys and meals to homes of the disadvantaged. As one man on the story said, “It may be as close to World Peace as I’ll see in my lifetime.”

~~~

Today we visited some friends who are hosting an exchange student from China. This was her first American Christmas, and although the family kept things low-keyed and only gave her two small gifts and a stocking full of toiletries, she kept sorting through the contents of her stocking, examining it all with quiet incredulity. Noticing her interest in all the gifts, someone asked if her family exchanged presents for any holidays.

Nothing like this, she said. Including birthdays, this was the most she had ever received in terms of presents.

And this is a kid whose family can afford to send her to the US in an exchange program. Not exactly poor.

~~~

So… for those of you who stressed about finding the perfect gift, or who are about to buckle under the weight of January’s credit card bills, something to keep in mind for next year:

The magic of Christmas doesn’t have to cost a penny. You don’t have to have a small child in your home to find it. Just be grateful for all that you have. Share with those who don’t have as much. And I promise: you’ll feel rich. It won’t matter what you put under the tree.

[And now, in my next post, back to your regular, snarky/pithy/biting programming.]

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2 Responses to “Perspectives on Christmas”

  1. Molly B and Me December 26, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    Merry Christmas and thanks for your lovely post

  2. thesinglecell December 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    You found the spirit of the season in so many ways. Merry Christmas, enjoy your family and have safe travels home.

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