“The Perfect Gift for Him!” “The Perfect Gift for Grandma!” “The Perfect Gift for That Person Who Thinks They’re Perfect!”
Whether it’s on TV, the radio, the newspaper, in stores, or in your email inbox, by now you’ve likely witnessed – and perhaps tried to ignore -- dozens or hundreds of ads along these lines.
What follows is not another diatribe against the materialistic excesses of the holidays; most people already are aware that the holidays are too materialistic, and in the U.S. at least, 3 in 4 wish it weren’t so according to a recent study*. Nonetheless, most people still tend to go overboard on holiday gifts, and at least there is something to be said for the fun of exchanging those gifts.
Instead what follows is my own guide to what I believe you will agree are truly perfect gifts to try your best to give ... during the holiday season and all year long.
I wish I could claim to have been inspired to create this while taking a solitary walk in the snowy woods beneath the moonlight or something similarly romantic. But the truth is I was inspired to create this when I got frustrated while shopping at a mega-mall where I couldn’t find a decent gift, much less the perfect one, for several people in my life.
I took a step back from my frustration, inhaled a few deep breaths, and then ended up really taking in all the people and activity going on around me. The throng of zigzagging strangers of all races and many different cultures on their shopping missions. The Salvation Army bell ringer with uncombed hair and dirty fingernails ringing his bell. The Santa with a yellow beard and smoker’s rasp ho-ho-hoing in the center of the mall, a long line of children wiggling and squealing in fear and delight before him.
Long story short, removing myself from the bustle and instead observing it, I was reminded that while worrying about the perfect material gift was just silly, doing my best to give the following perfect gifts now and all year long is as worthwhile as it gets.
The Perfect Gift for Children
My children, and the world’s children, are watching me. They will not learn from what I tell them to do; instead they will learn from what I actually do. If I practice intolerance for those with different viewpoints or physical features, I accept the world our children will run will be an even more intolerant place. If I practice tolerance, forgiveness and love, I expect the world they will run will be a more tolerant, forgiving and loving place. That is the perfect gift for my own children and the world’s children: my example.
The Perfect Gift for “Enemies”
Whether they trespassed against me intentionally or not, and even if they are aware of their trespasses against me but still cannot or will not alter their course, I will not allow hatred to take hold in my heart for anyone. Hatred only destroys, including destroying my dreams, peace and happiness and therefore destroying those around me who love me and depend on me. Even if I must take action to pursue what is right with those who have violated me in some way, I will take noble action with a loving heart, and even as I must act I will do so with forgiveness in my heart. That is the perfect gift for my “enemies” and all the lives they touch, which means my life and all lives: forgiveness.
The Perfect Gift for Friends
A true friend is someone who feels the same about me as I do about them: I don’t seek to take from them but instead thrive by giving of myself to them. The time, energy, and most of all the understanding I can provide them make me better, and I am at peace that they feel the same toward me. That is the perfect gift for my friends: my commitment to their heart.
The Perfect Gift for Strangers
Strangers are not threats to my way of life, they are potential for an even greater life. Though my ego may fear strangers and want to barricade me from the different perspectives they may offer, I will not let my ego confine me away from the greater happiness that can be mine. Every person of positive significance in my life was once a stranger to me too, and therefore strangers are gifts. Therefore, the perfect gift I can give to strangers is my embrace of them.
The Perfect Gift for Those in Need
I do not need to agree with any of the choices that may have led them there, nor do I even need to know or understand those choices, to give to those in need. I am not a flawless being equipped to make others in my image and therefore judge them when they are not, but I am a loving being equipped to make the world a better place by putting that love into action.
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If I practice indifference to anyone in need, or they must pass my judgment before I extend my hand, I accept that I will be treated the same if I am ever in need, and that others I care about will be treated the same if they ever are. If I practice unconditional love, I accept that the world will become more of an unconditionally loving place. Attentive conversations with lonely elderly people, serving meals to the homeless, generous donations to the destitute, visiting the sick and forgotten in hospitals, long and genuine hugs for those down on their luck who hold a different political or religious view from my own… the perfect gift for those in need, and for anyone, is my love in the form of action.
It is the gift that keeps on giving.
It is the spirit of the holidays.
This love in action, I remembered while watching all those shoppers rush by with their treasures, is the only gift that has ever kept our world merry and bright.
It turned out to be the most worthwhile experience I ever had at a shopping mall.
Happy Holidays, and may your healthy perspective and loving heart bring you the gift of a wonderful New Year.