Monday, December 6, 2010

This is my favorite time of year.  I know I complain now and then about the cold weather, the shopping, the never-ending to-do lists, the presents I need to buy, the gift-wrapping, and all the cooking, baking, and eating.  There is magical, wonderful spirit in the air that makes it so worthwhile. It is after all, the season of peace and love.

Every Christmas Eve, my living room is over-flowing with gifts. They are under and around the tree, up against walls, and piled high on  couches and tables. There is barely enough room to walk. We all gather together, sit at the table for an enormous feast of all our favorite foods, and then make our way through the obstacle course of beautifully wrapped boxes, overstuffed gifts bags, and toys and trinkets to begin opening our presents.  The gift exchanging ceremony takes several hours.

Business did not prove to be as profitable for me as I had hoped this year.  Money is tight.  Most people I know are in same position.  I had suggested to my family that we not go overboard this Christmas and consider buying just one really nice gift per adult and concentrate on the kids.  Our family is growing and we three new little additions.  There is nothing more exciting than the squeals of delight as little children tear open their packages.  Not to mention, I despise wandering aimlessly through the mall trying to find gifts for everyone that are bigger, better, and more fantastic than what I gave the year before. I thought I had a great idea.  It would take the pressure off my aging parents and my sister and her husband who are adjusting to one income now.  None of us are really in the financial position to spend large amounts of money this year.  My suggestion, however, was not received well.  How could I be such a Scrooge?  After much debate, I reluctantly agreed to buy too much and spend more than I can afford this year to keep everyone happy.  This frustrates me but how can I give just one present to someone who is piling dozens of gifts in my lap on Christmas Eve? 

I had a conversation yesterday about this with a  friend.  He told me that holidays were not always happy when he was growing up.  His family never knew if they were going to have dinner, let alone presents under a tree. While all the other kids in his neighborhood were counting the days 'til Christmas, he was praying the local Catholic church would remember his family and deliver a turkey and perhaps a few toys for his brothers and sisters. Thankfully, the church always came through when his mother could not afford to do so.

One particular Christmas stands out in his memory.  He was about thirteen years old. There was no tree, no turkey, no gifts, no last-minute knock on the door from priests delivering food and presents.  He chopped down a pine tree from the yard, dragged it inside, and set it up in the livingroom.  There were no ornaments so the tree was decorated with construction paper cut-outs and pinecones. It was the most ridiculous looking Christmas tree they had had ever seen but they loved it. They ate scrambled eggs for dinner and thanked God they were together.  They celebrated the true meaning of the season. It was not about big dinners or gifts, or sparkling ornaments hanging on a tree.  It was about hope, love, laughter and family. It was the best Christmas they ever had.

I cried like a baby as he told me this story.  I have always been so blessed, so fortunate, so spoiled.  I have never gone without a Christmas dinner or any meal for that matter.  There were always dozens of presents wating under a beautifully decorated Christmas tree for me and I never expected anything less.  As I get caught up in the stress and the joy of the season, I don't want to ever forget there are those who have nothing more than a few handmade paper ornaments, pine cones, and scrambled eggs.  Some people don't even have that much.

I felt so selfish complaining about having to buy too many gifts after hearing my friend's story.  I would have never know this about him had he not shared it with me.  He is always the one donating a turkey or two to the local church or buying extra toys or canned food to drop in those big collection boxes in front of grocery stores. Now I understand why.

I stayed awake last night thinking of ways to celebrate the spirit of giving this season without going into debt.  I decided I will stick with my original suggestion of buying one lovely present for each member of my family and then distribute other gifts as well.....treasures from my heart and made with my own hands. These kinds of gifts won't cost much more than a little extra thought, time and effort.  I want the people closest to me to know how much I love them. That is something that can never be bought in a store or measured by how much money I spend or the amount of gifts I give.

I sincerely hope each and everyone of you is surrounded by family, friends and loved ones this season.   Regardless of our faith or what we believe, may everything we do be done in a spirit of love. I hope the love we give comes back to us a hundred-fold.  I also pray that we never forget those less fortunate.  It doesn't matter if we have too much or too little this year.  We always have something to give that will touch the lives of others.

And this is my Daily Cyn.............

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