The Thought That Counts

My Particular Christmas Spirit...

Here's the deal...

I really believe that when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, it is the thought that counts.

Around this time of year, I like to get or make or procure or buy gifts for those people in my life that I want to honor for their inestimable contribution to my daily walk.  I'm not religious about the Christmas holiday - my mother simply infused into me a genuine love for a time of year that insists upon good will and appreciation for your significant others (not in the spousal definition - my mother, my sister, my friends are all significant others in my life) and there are a couple of simple rules that I try to follow when participating in the ritual of gift-giving and receiving:

•  Never get someone a gift as payment for a previous gift and never expect a gift in return.  That's called "trading" and you don't call them "trades" do you?

•  It isn't about how much money you spend - it's about how that gift shows your respect and love for the recipient.  If that means you drop a house payment or a coupla bucks, as long as the gift says what you want it to say, price is irrelevent.

•  I rarely get something someone has asked for in advance.  Not as much fun for me.  Probably a little selfish.

•  Bottom line, it is the very thought of getting someone a gift that counts rather than the gift itself.  And here's why I believe that:

While most people gravitate toward the stories of A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life, my personal favorite Christmas story is O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi.  I can't really relate to the life of Ebenezer Scrooge or that of George Bailey, but I completely understand the world of Della and James.  I've been that broke.  I've felt that strongly that I would sell whatever I had to give that special gift to someone I love.  I understand the strange embarrassment of really botching it up come Christmas morning.  And I love the idea that it isn't the specific gift that matters but the love behind it, the care in choosing it and the joy of the giving of it.

When I was a teacher, I read The Gift of the Magi to my classes every year.  In a classroom full of kids inundated with the commercial-driven lust for stuff - videogames, clothes, gizmos and money - I felt it was perhaps the most important lesson they learn during this particular holiday.

She sold her freaking HAIR to buy him a fob for his watch.  He sold his watch to buy her combs for her hair.

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication.
And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.