“The season is upon us now, a time for gift and giving,” pines John Denver in his song, “A Baby Just Like You.” When I hear these lyrics I think about the meaning behind the words and realize there are many gifts that cost no money, exhibit kindness and make others happy. I offer a few simple gift-giving solutions that will fill everyone’s stocking for the Christmas season and beyond.
· Be present—when others speak really listen. Closing one’s mouth and opening one’s mind will offer insight into what one’s friend really has to say. Stop and listen.
· Clean up after yourself whether at home or in public. It takes only a few minutes to pick up your garbage. I hate walking in the woods and seeing a candy wrapper, cigarette butt or beer can.
· Return your shopping cart to the cart stall. Save a person’s car from a ding caused your errant cart and save a few steps for the employee who has to retrieve your buggy from the parking lot.
· Open a door—if a person’s hands are full, if one is walking in from the cold or simply being kind means holding a door open for another person.
· Write a note to someone who needs a reassuring word. Simply noting that you care might reassure one that life is okay, that someone notices their existence.
· Hang up your phone. It is inconsiderate to talk on one’s cell phone while checking out at a grocery store, while driving, while eating at a restaurant or while talking with another person. If someone is looking into your eyes and having a conversation with you, do not look at your phone to see whom just texted or left a voicemail.
· Snowblow or shovel your neighbor’s walkway. If you are removing snow, keep up the work and continue to your neighbor’s property. The gift will be reciprocated.
· Pay it forward. If a person is struggling to pay their grocery bill, aid them with a few dollars. Unexpectedly pay for the person’s coffee behind you at Starbucks or leave a $20.00 bill with the checkout person at the grocery store for the groceries of the person behind you. Don’t assume, because a person is driving a nice car or wearing nice clothes they don’t need a hand-up.
· Say thank you and please. People feel appreciated and acknowledged for doing an unexpected task.
· Do the unexpected. Take your neighbor a plate of baked goods, show up at an event and offer to volunteer, prepare an unexpected meal for a friend or take your child to the park. Unexpected gifts reward the receiver with a feeling of joy while the sender feels fulfilled in their attempt.
· Be on time. If you say you will be at a party, meeting, rendezvous or event at a certain time, be there at that time. Being “fashionably late” is rude and uncaring. Being on time is kind and caring.
· Drive kindly. Slow down, don’t be aggressive and allow others to merge. If a blinker is blinking, don’t speed up to ensure the blinkee can’t merge. Make a hole and allow the driver to move into the desired lane. Pause at yellow lights and prepare to stop. Red lights mean stop, not speed up. Stop signs mean stop, not cruise to a pause then punch it through the sign if a car is approaching. Stop means stop. Red lights mean stop. Yellow lights mean caution and prepare to stop. A kind, nurturing person follows the rules of the road and obeys traffic laws.
· Say, “I love you,” often. Remind the people you love that you love them and tell them with passion.
Giving gifts does not require money or fancy gift-wrap. Some of the best gifts may cost a few minutes of your time but mean the most to those around you. I offer this gift. The completion of the song quoted above:
“And as the year draws to it's close, I think about my living, The Christmastime when I was young, the magic and the wonder, but colors dull and candles dim, and dark my standing under. Oh little angel, shining light, you set my soul to dreaming, you’ve given back my joy in life, you've filled me with new meaning. A Savior king was born that day, a baby just like you, and as the Magi came with gifts, I’ve come with my gift too. That peace on earth fills up your time, that brotherhood surrounds you, that you may know the warmth of love, and wrap it all around you.” Merry Christmas!