Sunday, December 7, 2008

Got Gift? Meaningful Giving Tips

A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver. Thomas Kempis, author

“What do you want for Christmas?” We all ask it and we all have to answer it; every year. For many years my husband has told our entire family that he’d prefer not to receive gifts, but no one accepts that. They keep spending their hard-earned cash on funny T shirts or cool gadgets for him. They struggle each year complaining about how hard it is to find something he’ll enjoy, but the gifts keep coming.

As much as he appreciates the reason for the presents (their love and affection for him) he dislikes the waste more. He would prefer our loved ones save their money for a rainy day or put a portion of what they’d spend on his spiffy new air compressor or LED light toward feeding orphans and widows in Mexico or Zimbabwe.

Don’t get me wrong, he enjoys his custom wireless mouse and gift certificates to nice restaurants, but laments that, “Next year, or even in three months I’ll never remember who gave me what…this will all be forgotten.”

But why is no one listening to him, or at least not taking him seriously? Partly because we’ve all learned the same trite response to the afore-mentioned question: “I can’t think of a thing” or “You don’t have to do that.” Mostly though, it’s because they love him and can’t bear not showing it through this time-honored tradition.

For many, especially children, Christmas and Hanukah are all about the loot. We talk a good game about how commercial it all is and that we’re going to “scale back this year” but evidence is to the contrary. Americans go deeper in debt and rush to join the buying frenzy each year for fear of…of what? Having our friends and family doubt that we care about them? Appearing to not be generous or thoughtful? If those things haven’t been demonstrated throughout the year in many other ways, a shiny new toy isn’t going to prove anything.

My husband is fortunate to be surrounded by people who express their love in countless ways all year long and he reciprocates. This is effortless and authentic in contrast to the contrived (compulsory?) exchange during the holidays.

Yeah, I know, I sound like a true Scrooge. A holiday buzz-kill. This is not my intention. My purpose is to remind that love, kindness and generosity—what we call the “holiday spirit” should encompass every day of our lives. Gift away, but don’t go broke doing it and don’t do it to prove anything.

More importantly, incorporate a new tradition of giving to those you don’t know who may truly not have a holiday meal or single present for their children. There are many options for this but one of the best is the Salvation Army. Mail them a check, or better yet, let your kids put some cash in the kettle every time you encounter a bell-ringer. And don’t just give your money, engage in the sacrifice of serving. Volunteer (with your kids or grandkids by your side) to ring a bell at the supermarket, work at the mall to help the Angel Tree project, or serve Christmas dinner.

Mental health experts say this is a great way to battle seasonal depression. Have I reinstated your holiday high? I hope so because ‘tis the season. Again.
For more information or to contact the Salvation Army call Danielle Moore, 602-267-4117,

Any other creative giving suggestions?
Diane Markins


Linda S. Fitzgerald said...


You are spot-on! The best way to beat the holiday 'blahs' is to get involved helping another. Or do so through an organization that helps others. Personally, I am a strong supporter of Samaritan's Purse - Rev. Franklin Graham's international aid organization. Each year they do something called the "Shoebox". They pack items for children into a shoebox and distribute them worldwide. I know of no better way to spread love, care and the Gospel than through this organization. You can check them out at

Much love,
Linda S. Fitzgerald

Linda S Fitzgerald said...

The active URL is

Anonymous said...

Our family decided several years ago that we were no longer exchanging gifts (except for the little ones). It just got too much and we all stressed about it. Instead we decided to adopt a family that were in need. We find a local family to help out. This has given us more joy over the years. To get a thank you note from a mom to tell us that we made her children laugh and smile was all we needed. The other tradition we do every year is with my closest friends. Instead of a gift exchange we go out to lunch to spend some quality time together and then head to the mall to pick a name off the giving tree. There are so many people in need. Then we head off to shop for everything on their list. We have such a great day.
It is so much better to give than receive and you truly won't miss opening presents.
Best Wishes,
Kelly Lehman

Diane Markins said...

Sounds like you have this Christmas experience all figured out! Thanks for sharing these great ideas.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Diane. It's so funny to hear the media talk about our recession and yet, people are still shopping like mad. Yeah, maybe not spending as much as in years past but, I think it speaks to this desperation to "show" our love and appreciation once a year. It's more an obligation than a desire, and that's the unfortunate part.

We are blessed this year in that we and several other family members are struggling financially. Yes, I said blessed. Why? Because we're able to focus more deliberately on what we're buying and why. And we've agreed that we (all of us) have so much already and would prefer to share our love and resources with others. It'll be strange not opening as many presents this year but so far, this has been the most meaningful Christmas in a long, long time!

Diane Markins said...

What a wonderful perspective to see this time of financial struggle as an opportunity and a blessing. Well put about the "deliberate focus" of our gift giving.