Tuesday, December 21, 2010

To Give or Not to Give

To give, or not to give, that is the question I ask myself each year around this time. Not to sound like a scrooge, but I have found that I give more gifts to peripheral acquaintances than I do to close friends and family. (Perhaps that says something about the number of friends I have?)

School teachers, religious education teachers, teachers’ aides, coaches, bus drivers, mailman, trash men, newspaper delivery person, hairdresser, piano/guitar teachers, work associates, Scout leaders… the list goes on and on.

And then there are the Secret Santa gifts, hostess gifts, neighbor gifts, and Church and school gift collections we give to.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in the old adage ”Tis better to give than to receive,” but do I have to give to so many?

I’m a sucker for a red bucket. I’ve never met a “Toys for Tots” box I haven’t wanted to fill. And those Dear Santa letters bring me to tears every time.

The question is when and where to draw the line. When do you say enough? Like most families, we are cutting back this Christmas. Is it fair though, to cut back on any of the above individuals, all of whom do a much-appreciated service for our family?

All of these thoughts go through my head as I search for that perfect gift for the CCD teachers’ aide (whom I’ve never met but was told by my daughter is “very nice.”)

I know, money or gift cards are always appreciated, but I have a problem with giving money. My husband and his brother stopped exchanging gifts a few years ago when they realized they were simply passing money, in the form of gift cards, back and forth.

“Here’s a gift card to Lowe’s for you!”
“Thanks, and here’s a gift card in the same amount for you to Home Depot.”

Now, they wish each other a Merry Christmas with a handshake and a beer. It works for them.

I know it’s the thought that counts, but wouldn’t the thought mean more in words or gestures, not dollar signs?

Wouldn’t the mailman appreciate a cold glass of lemonade in July, and some hot chocolate in February? Wouldn’t the piano teacher like an extra week’s pay in March?

Of course they would, but does this make up for the absence of a gift in December? I don’t think so.

And so, I will continue to shop, and bake, and wrap. I will hand out my gifts with a smile and a kind word, knowing I am lucky to be able to give, even if it may be a little less than previous years.

I will wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful 2011 and mean it. And that, in my opinion, is the best gift I can give anyone ~ the gift of positive thoughts and good will.

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