Best Christmas Gift
This time of year is always a busy, busy time for everyone. Holiday parties, Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas, New Years, traditions, tree lightings, making Christmas cookies, and of course, shopping. I feel inundated, almost nauseated, by the stress of the holidays and all of the focus on consumerism. Last week, I walked into Sommerset Mall, a high end shopping complex that is part-shopping, part-experience. The amount of larger-than-life posters with people happily frolicking and caught mid-stride, in the air, looking back over their shoulder, dressed in holiday garb, was improbable. As I walked through the mall, I was almost saddened. Is this what Christmas has come to? I thought. I don’t even want the things they are advertising, let alone need them. Dammit Eddie Bauer, do you see any mountains to climb in the suburban jungle of Troy, Michigan? Ahhh!
I have the same conversation with my mom every year:
Mom: “I need your Christmas list.”
[3 weeks go by.]
Mom: “I need your Christmas list.”
Me: “Mom, I honestly don’t want anything. All I really want is time. If you can buy me time, I would love it.”
Last year, my parents did. They bought me a season of lawn maintenance so I could do something else for two hours a week. The first week I used it, I called them to say thanks and decided to go sit outside and read a book at a nearby park. It was awesome. I don’t remember the book, but I do remember the fresh air and the views of Stoney Creek. One of the weeks I went over their house and stood on their driveway, talking to my dad. We didn’t solve any of the world’s problems, unless noticing his sidewalk could use a good power washing is considered a worldly problem.
This year is no different. My mom asked me for a Christmas list. I quietly sighed and thought about how my attitude towards Christmas has changed over the years. It is kind of sad. What used to be the greatest month of the year, one that I looked forward to and fully embraced with the enthusiasm of a small child, is now something I almost dread. Why?
I appreciate the generosity and the spirit of giving; I really do. I just think it is misguided. When I think about all of the gifts that I don’t need, the gifts I have to buy, how much effort and energy is going to go into this endeavor and who really benefits from this tradition, I get upset. I honestly think it is a value-destruction proposition. What is the purpose of all of this? What do these gifts really represent? Why don’t we rewrite the tradition of gift giving to a tradition of time giving or perhaps even random acts of kindness? It may be a small gesture, but instead of reciprocal pampering of gifts, why not direct the material gifts to those who need them and give the gift of time – a free gift nonetheless – to the ones we love?
Last weekend, my wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. We had various ideas for how to celebrate such an occasion – everything from visiting our best friends in NYC to staying at the hotel we got married in for the weekend. Ultimately, we scrapped those ideas, digitally unplugged for a few days, and ate and wandered our way through Detroit. (When I say ate, I am not referring to anyplace that would require a reservation either, unless Grand Trunk Pub started taking reservations that I am unaware of. We did wait almost an hour for Green Dot Stables, but that is understandable.) We shared everything from deep conversations about marital expectations to epic people watching to long moments of silence. Outside of Grand Trunk, we walked through the holiday decor near Campus Martius, exchanged a moment of gratitude (maybe a kiss and embrace) and snapped this photo to remember our day by. At the end of the weekend, we gave each other a card and ultimately the best and most memorable gift – time with each other.
It is so easy to get caught up in the shopping, the ads, and finding the best Christmas gift for someone. What we don’t realize, is that the best Christmas gift we can give is being the best Christmas gift – the best son, the best brother, the best spouse, or the best friend – simply someone who is there and cares.
This year is no different; I don’t want anything. I already feel like I have received the best Christmas gifts I can get – I have an awesome and loving wife, a supportive family, my health, and two careers that I love.
I hope this holiday season you take time to not only look around and see all of the gifts you have received, but also take time to be the best Christmas gift to those you love.