“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Sounds very noble, doesn’t it? Those words from the Bible, attributed to Jesus, are often quoted, and I most sincerely believe and commend them. Which means I have always acted accordingly, right?
As a child I had no use for the giving thing at all, in fact it never, so far as I can remember, ever entered my tiny mind. Getting, now, that was what I looked for. And my excuse, of course, is that probably most small kids think the same way.
My brothers and I were never expected to buy gifts for each other or for our parents at Christmas or any other time. I have a convenient excuse for that as well: we lived in a newly settled and somewhat isolated rural homestead district. There was no shopping access in the area except for the small stores in the nearby village. And with money very tight in those years we kids had no resources whatsoever. Some children in those circumstances would, I know, come up with personally made handicraft gifts for family members, but I was neither handy nor crafty, so that didn’t happen.
The “getting” was rather limited then too, as our parents had few resources to work with. The gifts we got (normally mail-ordered from Eaton’s or Simpson’s) would look very few and simple compared with the loaded down booty under the trees of the pampered youngsters of today. But Mom and Dad did their best and you know what? We were absolutely thrilled, totally excited with the presents we got, quite possibly because the experience wasn’t diluted with the elaborate toys and possessions gained at other times in the year as is so often the case now.
There is one event, however, that makes most of us realize for the first time that giving actually is an unparalleled delight, and that event is becoming a parent. I can still see my little sons, eyes popping with excitement, voices squealing with delight as they latched onto treasured items. Not many things in my life have stirred such depths of love and devotion--in spite of the fact that Santa, not my wife and I, got all the credit.
By that time it was quite clear to me that giving indeed brings more joy than getting, but that didn’t mean I became a wise and talented gift buyer. Not at all. To tell the truth, as my grandkids would put it, I suck at it.
Oh, I tried, tried to do my share of buying family gifts. But it was an impossible and--for me--a nerve wracking task. In vain I tramped through stores in Prince Albert and Saskatoon hoping something, somewhere, would suddenly light up on the shelves and notify my brain, “Here I am, the perfect present for So-and-so.” Nothing seemed right. Finally in desperation I would grab something here, anything there, that I thought might somehow serve the purpose.
Finally my wife and daughters-in-law sat me down and declared that I was never--in view of the fact my choices were not just unsatisfactory but atrocious--ever to attempt gift-buying again. And believe me I fully agreed. I felt like a slave liberated.
In my years of widowhood I solved the problem by mailing cheques--easy and impersonal, yes, but best for everyone, giver and getter. And now Esther--an absolute genius at choosing, with love, the right gift for the personality, character, desires and present circumstances of each of our dozens of recipients--has lifted the burden from my incompetent shoulders.
To all my readers: may you have all the best of giving, getting and love this Christmas season.