The Holiday Season at its best is filled with joyful giving, loving relationships, and spirited celebration. At least this is what our favorite Christmas music, old movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and December TV commercials tell us. We hold onto these warm sounds and images, in part because they inspire hope in our lives and help us adjust our attitudes toward others in positive ways. However, our super-charged consumer culture creates intense pressure to spend, entertain, and give gifts, sometimes heightening our expectations to idealized proportions. This can add stress to our lives and begin to seem out of control and overwhelming for many of us. But, if we can pause for a moment to reflect, we have the opportunity to experience moments of true generosity and the spirit of the season.
Five ways experience the spirit of generosity during the Holidays:
1) Experience Gratitude—Take some time to reflect on the people and things in your life for which you are grateful. This is easier said than done during the busy-ness of holiday preparations, but it can actually help relieve some stress and bring a fresh perspective. Start by taking a deep breath, close your eyes, push the negative, painful thoughts out of the way to focus on the simplest gifts received, then expand from there: a smile, a cheerful greeting, finding a shiny coin or lost item, cuddling with a pet, a hug from a loved one….
2) First Things First—Know who and what is most important to you and adjust your expenditures of time and energy accordingly. Our jobs, homes, and other tasks and responsibilities require our attention, to be sure. However, no amount of time spent shopping, decorating, cooking, or cleaning is more important than time with your loved ones, friends, and time for yourself.
3) Values Giving—Your giving should clearly align and demonstrate your deepest held values in harmony with your gift recipient’s whenever possible. In addition to giving someone a tangible item, think creatively, and have fun connecting values with gift giving.
Is your sister an animal lover? Make a donation to her local humane shelter in her honor.
Does your mother like to reuse and recycle? Get a gift certificate to her local thrift shop.
Is your friend experiencing illness or stressful life circumstances? Offer to do some household chores or make her a cup of tea and visit a while.
Has your father devoted years of service to his church board? Create a book of pictures and mementos and/or make a gift to his church in honor of his years of service.
4) Receive Well—The spirit of generosity is nurtured early in our lives through our experiences of receiving, initially through the love and attention of a trusted caregiver. Our attitudes about giving and generosity are largely shaped by our family culture and religious teachings. These are complex messages and not always positive. It is not uncommon to feel unworthy of someone’s gift, or awkward about receiving a gift with nothing to give in return. In most cases, those giving the gift experience pleasure in doing so. Practice gracious receiving and watch someone’s eyes light up!
My wish for you is that, together, we help expand awareness about the power of philanthropy and giving as a means of transforming our world and the lives of its inhabitants. I have found that happens one choice at a time, one act of giving at a time, one person at a time.
May it be so for you and yours this season of giving and light!
Giving Speaks volumes about life, love, and community~