It’s funny how our culture gets in December. We’ve eaten our turkeys and given our thanks and now it’s time to wrap up the year and a ton of presents for everyone and their mom.
I’ve always loved giving gifts, but somewhere along the line it stopped being as fun. Remember when you’d string some macaroni together and be so proud when Grandma wore it with pride all day?
That was rad.
Now it’s like squeezing time and money to fulfill some obligation ... I don’t mean to be pessimistic. I actually believe that giving is REALLY good for you. (I even wrote my thesis on the power and health benefits of giving!)
But I look around and see everyone wilting under the pressure and I feel like a little bit of the magic of the holidays has been lost in this consumerist effort to give, give, give.
Even when it isn’t consumerism—when you do pour your heart and soul into a gift, I think there are some important things to keep in mind in our efforts and so I offer you the ABC’s of Giving:
Altruism—an unselfish regard for or devotion to the welfare of others.
Rather than focusing on everything going on and then giving so much of yourself that you lose yourself this holiday season, is there a way you can just step into a space of altruism, where you can focus any time or gift you choose to give on the welfare of others. When it doesn’t feel like that, don’t do it.
If you have a dime in your pocket when you walk by the Santa with the Salvation Army cup and it feels good, drop it in! If you can keep other’s welfare in mind as you spend your time or dollars giving, it will be more rewarding and less taxing! Especially if you create boundaries...
Boundaries—guidelines, rules, or limits that a person creates to define what is reasonable for him or herself.
While altruism is all well and good, you can’t truly take care of others unless you know how to take care of yourself. Set boundaries for yourself this holiday season. You feel pulled in a million directions and like you can’t get enough rest and you have four holiday parties on one day that go until 2am? What do you need? Set boundaries. If what you need is a two party limit and a curfew, you do it and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it.
This is your life and if you end up sick and tired, your grumpy ass will be no fun to be around anyway. What do you need? If you're broke and have budgeted a certain amount for gifts but see something for that one person that takes up your budget for your whole family, you might have to pass so you’re not paying off debt through February.
No one will hold it against you and everyone would rather have you sane than have the Xbox game or whatever-trivial-something you can purchase. And perhaps you’ll be more fun to be around because you won't be stressed about your bills and then you can be more conscious in the time you spend together.
Consciousness—the normal state of being awake and able to understand what is happening around you.
Seems obvious enough, but being conscious during the holiday season takes a bit of work. We must be mindful. It’s easy to get all wrapped up in work deadlines or travel plans or stressing about how much you’re stressing… Consciousness means being awake in the present moment. And that alone can be the best present of all.
Take a deep breath and connect with the people with whom you’re spending time. Human connection is what keeps us sane and healthy this holiday season.
So go ahead and give. Give until your heart is content and then rest, and connect, and keep your heart content and stay healthy, wealthy, and wise.