Another Christmas season is upon us. And I have not even started shopping. This year I find my thoughts drifting toward how to choose meaningful gifts for the people on my list. Yet, when I honestly reflect on gifts I truly want to give or get, it's more complicated than just going to the mall or shopping online. Here's my perfect gift list:
1. The gift of time: There's never enough time to get everything done or spend with those who matter most. The best gift we can give ourselves is to stop doing things out of obligation or to get noticed. Learn to say no with grace and love. You can do anything, but you cannot do everything. Invest quality time with those who matter in your life. Fully engage and embrace the precious, small moments by being with those you love or reaching out to someone who may be lonely. Invite someone to share a cup of coffee or make that phone call, just to talk for awhile.
2. The gift of humor: Laughter draws people together. Whether at work or, with family and friends, take a minute to laugh together. Avoid laughing at someone else's expense, but find reasons and situations that make you laugh out loud. Laugh at yourself. A hard, belly laugh. Research has proven laughter has positive side effects on health, longevity, and long term relationships.
3. The gift of attention: Stop checking your phone when at lunch or dinner with someone. Give them your undivided attention. Look into their eyes when they are talking. The topics that are most important to them will often come up in a casual way. Ask appropriate questions and really listen to the answers. You may not be able to solve the problem, but a listening ear can ease the burden for another person. Take time to notice what isn't said too. Just pay attention to others. Where ever you are, be there.
4. The gift of thanks: Gratitude can change the tone of your life. Do you have a job? Be thankful that you are employed. Does someone love you? Be thankful for love. Are you alive and breathing? Life may not be perfect, but be thankful for life. Has someone been kind to you? Thank them. Make it a practice to write down weekly or evenly monthly a few simple things (or people) you are thankful for. There is no gesture of gratitude that is too small. Send a handwritten thank you note or card to someone. Text the words,"Thank you for you," to a friend or family member. It just might make their day.
5. The gift of prayer: Whatever your religious or denominational leanings, prayer is wonderful part of faith. You can always pray for someone else. You can offer a celebratory prayer for someone experiencing good fortune. You can pray for someone who is suffering a loss. You might even want to pray for those you find less than pleasant to be around. Prayer changes things. Most of all, it changes you.
Looking at this list, I suppose it's not complicated at all. All you need is a willing heart to give any of these gifts. As I think about the holidays, family, coworkers, and my life's work...here's my prayer:
May we listen more than we speak.
May we ask for support when we need it.
May we offer support to someone else when they need it.
May we rest without fear.
May we surrender to the truth and forgive others when they wrong us.
May we avoid listening to negativity and the wagging tongues of gossip.
May we respect differences without judging one another or sacrificing our beliefs.
May we seek solutions by having courageous conversations.
May we grow, serve, connect, and be thankful throughout the year.