Here we are at the end of another year. The Holiday rush is winding down. Cards have been mailed, cookies have been baked and shared (and eaten!), gifts have been unwrapped, toys are being played with, and, here in the Northeast, we're digging out of the blizzard of 2010.
Christmas is a memory now, but this year has to go down as one of the best I've had in a while. We celebrated the holiday with family, as we always do, but somehow, this year held a special magic with extra doses of fun and laughter. I've spent the last few days trying to figure out what was different this year, and I think it may be that, 'round about Thanksgiving, I made a conscious decision not to stress. As the Whos down in Whoville taught the Grinch, Christmas would come whether there were boxes and bows, cards and cookies, or not. So I decided to do the best that I could do, not try to live up to some unrealistic, self-imposed expectation, and not worry about it.
As it turns out, I still managed to get all of the things done that I usually do (even if some things got done a bit later than usual) and I managed to actually enjoy it more. Just as the Whos sang on Christmas morning, even without any of the "stuff" that they usually had for Christmas, my heart sang because it was lighter. It was the best gift I've given to myself in some time, and it was a gift to those around me, as well.
Since I wasn't all tied up in knots about what did or didn't get done, I could take in all the joy that Christmas brings, but mostly, being calmer allowed me to see that the best gifts aren't just things. The best gifts are the love, patience, and understanding that we give to one another, and we bestow those gifts by giving of our time and our thoughtfulness.
It is said that actions speak louder than words, so where we put our time and attention speaks volumes about what, and who, is really important to us. Giving Christmas presents is fun, and there's nothing like watching a loved one's face light up with joy when they open a particularly special gift. Let's not forget that what makes a gift special is not the physical thing itself, but what it represents, both to the giver and the receiver. When a present is chosen with thoughtfulness and love, it shows that the giver not only understands what's important to the receiver, but that the giver is supportive and cares about the receiver's interests. It's a symbol of caring and sharing, of nurturing and love. It's a sign that the giver has spent time and emotional energy with the receiver in mind.
As we head into a new year, I'm hoping to keep that thought uppermost in my mind. I'm hoping to remember that the greatest gift I can give to anyone - friend, family member, or even stranger - is my time. I'm hoping to remember that when someone gives me their time, that I take a minute to be grateful, for that's the greatest gift someone can give to me, too.
If we can all be as diligent about giving of ourselves as we are about buying, wrapping, and exchanging Christmas presents, perhaps 2011 will be a year filled with the peace that we all crave.