I decided to continue my list from yesterday after Christmas. This will be my last blog until December 26. I have something else on my mind today and now is the perfect time to share it.
I remember the year I suggested to my family that we skip the gift giving. I was going through a stressful time. The thought of searching for gifts was overwhelming me, so I called my mom and suggested that we take a year off. Not everyone agreed with my suggestion, so they went ahead and bought gifts anyway. I remember feeling like a scrooge that year at our family Christmas party. I guess what I should have done was opt out of the gift exchange instead of suggesting that everyone take a break. But stress has a way of breeding snap decisions and no one realized how on-the-brink-of-a-breakdown I was.
Then another year we went through the same thing with my husband's side of the family. Although this time it wasn't me who suggested we skip the gifts. Someone else decided to opt out of gift giving for financial reasons. I agreed with this person and proceeded to call other family members, telling them about our decision. My breaking news wasn't met with enthusiasm, so I immediately stepped out of the discussion and let other family members handle it. Once again, I felt like a killjoy.
Apparently this Christmas gift thing is something every family deals with. Today, I talked to a friend who said that one of her family members suggested they set a five-dollar limit on gifts this year. My friend rejected the idea. She said she's not wasting the same amount of gas to pick up a five-dollar gift. And she doesn't want a canister of cashews for Christmas. She'd rather get nothing.
There are no set rules for gift giving, and I guess when we try to put rules on giving we are setting ourselves up for resistance. But we also should respect those who choose not to give. We need to respect both their decision and their reason for opting out. What makes a gift a gift is the fact that it isn't forced, but rather it's given willingly and without reservation. I wouldn't want a gift from someone who struggled to get it to me. Whether it was a mental struggle or a financial struggle, knowing that the giver endured unnecessary stress for the sake of a gift would take the joy out of receiving it.
I think we put way too much value on gifts. When people push so hard to be first through the doors at Target that those in front are trampled to the ground and practically suffocated, then we've reached a sad point in our humanity. Parents who are willing to fight with other shoppers so their child can have the latest greatest toy have reached a sad point in their humanity. When you're willing to hurt others so you can deliver a certain gift, that's when it's time to stop.
I often wonder what God thinks of all this fussing we do over gifts at Christmas. He gave us the ultimate gift, yet many of us spend more time thinking about worldly gifts. We value stuff more than Jesus. There's nothing wrong with giving gifts. But when gift-giving brings stress to ourselves and others, when it causes arguments and bad feelings in families, then the gift has become too expensive.
If a gift hasn't traveled a path of joy to get to me, then I'd rather it stayed on the shelf.