Think back to your good holiday memories from the past. How many of them were about the actual gift you received? Can you remember the gifts? There might be one or two special gifts that stand out in your mind and make you smile as you remember them.
For the most part, I can’t remember what gifts I received. What I do remember is the time spent with friends and family, the games, the laughter, the hugs and yes the occasional fights that now in retrospect seem rather silly. The things I received don’t mean that much. They were symbols of the love of my family and friends, not the love itself. The love was expressed in our time together. My holiday memories are family dinners, Scrabble games and football games on the television with my mom and dad cheering loudly for their teams.
There is one gift I do remember and it is an embarrassing memory of me at my bratty teenage best. Mom and I had picked out a reversible quilted fabric for a robe for me. I envisioned it made with one side showing and mom made it with the other. I cringe as my 50-year old self remembers her younger self throwing a fit, saying, “Brown–UGH! No one wants a brown robe!” My mom loved me so much that she ripped the robe apart and re-sewed it to the color I had originally envisioned. (I am not sure I would have been so generous.) It makes me cry now when I think of it. Because in every stitch of that robe two times over, my mom showed me how much she loved me. Words didn’t come easy for my mom but in actions she showed me again and again how much I meant to her. After I moved away from home, it was hard to throw that robe out even after it was tattered and worn; wrapped in it, I felt my mother’s arms around me and her comfort when I was sick. I felt her presence. It wasn’t about the robe.
Last week as I watched all the coverage about Black Friday, I was guided to post a picture on Facebook with this saying, “The most value present you give is your loving presence. Those moments are priceless and forever held in your heart.” Because it isn’t the physical things like a robe that we cherish. It is the love and time that comes with them. When I realized that, I let the robe go to goodwill and kept the memories that it represented for me.
This time of the year we can get caught up in the advertising and marketing world’s vision of the holidays that there is very little peace in our hearts as we rush to get everything done. What if this holiday season we made creating moments of connection, acceptance and love priorities? What if everywhere we went we looked for an acknowledged the little gifts of kindness that are given to us and vowed to be a better giver of our hearts in return? What if we remembered that gifts are symbols not the event itself? What would shift?
I know not everyone had idyllic family situations growing up. Sometimes we try to compensate for what we didn’t have by giving more things. Once our basic survival needs are met, the things never fill the wounds of the past. Only the light of love does that.
This year, many are focusing on the Mayan Prophecies which said that the time around 12/21/12 was the end of an age. Notice I didn’t say the end of the world. I think the shift is already happening. We see that the things do not fill the deep desire in our souls for compassion and connection. The calls to simplify and take care of our earth are part of that shift.
So this holiday season, enjoy your shopping that allows you to give symbols of your love to those you care about. Enjoy the gifts you receive that are those same symbols in return but don’t forget the greatest gift of all is your loving presence. All of us committing to a little more thoughtful consumption, walking more softly on the earth, being more kind to our neighbors is the only thing that will change the world. Each us have a gift to bring from the heart.