With only a few days left until the end of Hanukah and the start of Christmas, I decided to confidently and courageously venture downtown only to find the shops overflowing with people choosing gifts and then queueing up in very long lines not only waiting to pay for their purchases but also having their gifts wrapped for them. Because my modest and carefully selected gifts had been thoughtfully purchased and gratefully received some weeks ago, I now had the luxury to leisurely spend time being a curious and cautious observer rather than a reluctant and overwhelmed participant. While many people take great pleasure in finding just the right gift for someone other than themselves, others find this both challenging and exhausting. Many people find this to be a sad and stressful time of year rather than a time of joy to be savoured, even though their senses are engaged with their sight taking in the beauty of the holiday lights and decorations; their smell taking in the seductive odours of sweet and savoury delicacies; their taste taking in the many samples of chocolate treats; their touch caressing the many beautiful luxuries on offer and their hearing taking in the familiar sounds of holiday music, animated conversation and children’s laughter. They often find themselves alone with no one to spend the holidays with sometimes due to circumstances beyond their control or by choice for any number of reasons: perhaps they are far away or estranged from their families; perhaps they have had a difficult year and have opted out of participating or perhaps they feel pressure to participate and reciprocate in a way that is not within their financial means and does not align with their beliefs and values.
If you have yet to start your gift shopping, come to the conclusion and admitted to yourself and no one else that a root canal would be preferable to gift shopping and purchasing this year, then why not make the decision to not shop for gifts and instead give each person on your list a thoughtful note and include a gift card for three hours of your time and attention. Your gift card can specify a favourite activity of the person receiving the gift, a favourite activity of yours that you would like to share with them or one or these suggested activities: a walk in a park or garden, a hike in the mountains, a drive in the country, a visit to a gallery or museum, a coffee and a treat at your or their favourite cafe. The only three criteria are: that you make a commitment to spend time on a particular day and time with this individual, that you listen more than you talk and that you give them your undivided attention. By doing this, each of the people on your list are receiving four gifts: you are giving them your time and your attention and you are sharing a memory and an experience with them. Which is more valuable: a gift bought in a store with more haste and less thought or a gift that someone can look back on for many years to come that will bring a smile to their face and a twinkle in their eyes.