Is Giving a Gift Always the Best Choice?

by Patricia Spadaro

P2070238You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. —Kahlil Gibran

Let’s face it—many of us are still rushing around to buy the people we love the most their holiday gifts, huffing and puffing all the way.  Here’s a story that’s a perfect reminder of why getting a physical gift for someone may not always be the best choice. We have so much more to give…

Margaret has been operating for most of her life on the premise that the time we share with a friend is far more important than giving or getting a physical gift. Born and raised in Ireland, she grew up in an environment where children, not adults, received gifts for holidays. One year, Margaret explained how she felt about gift-giving to Sandra, a co-worker who had become a good friend. Margaret pulled her new friend aside and bluntly told her: “It’s time for me to give you the lecture I give all my friends. Don’t get me a Christmas present or a birthday present, because I don’t want one. What am I going to do with more things? If you want to go out to lunch with me, that’s fine because then we get to spend time together. But if you get me a gift, you’ll just have to work harder to pay for it—and then you’ll have even less time to spend with me.”

It was Sandra who shared this story with me. “I actually felt relieved when I heard this,” she admitted, “and I appreciated my friendship with Margaret even more.” Sandra went on to tell me that a few years ago for Christmas, she had decided to do something similar. She told her relatives and close friends that instead of buying them material gifts, she wanted to spend some time alone with them. “It was the best Christmas I ever had,” she recalled, smiling. “I was able to spend time with all my favorite people and I wasn’t rushing around shopping. I didn’t even go to the mall once!”

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be a good giver. It’s your inner gifts, the ones that touch another, heart to heart, that are the most precious offerings.

(Story taken from “Honor Yourself: The Inner Art of Giving and Receiving”)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Just this week a young mother with three small children told me a similar story that reflected her values: “My husband  and I are choosing to work less so we can spend more time with our children rather than buying them lots and lots of stuff, which they don’t really need. We want to give our children as much time and attention as we can right nowwhen it’s most important.”

Not all of us have the option of working less, but we all face a similar decision point: What’s more important—spending quality time with the people who mean the most to me?  Or spending time away from the people I love to make more money or do the things I think I’m supposed to be doing to get ahead?

(And by the way, that picture above is of my kitties,  who are constantly trying to teach me—with mixed results—how important it is to spend time in the “now” with the ones we love.)

Giving the Gift of Your Heart

by Patricia Spadaro

HeartBetter than bigger is the gift of the heart.

As little children size up their stack of birthday or holiday gifts, bigger and more always seem better. I’ll never forget the sobs that came from a little niece of mine one Christmas morning when she finished unwrapping the two gifts my husband and I had given her, only to see that her sister had an extra package from us to open. She felt cheated, even though we had carefully spent equal amounts of money on them both.

As adults, we may still pull out the mental measuring stick when it comes time to open our gifts. Yet take a moment and think about the times, as a child or adult, when you felt most happy, joyful, or at peace. Were those moments really defined by how much money someone spent on you? Or was it the time and attention you received or the intimacy and connection you experienced that made you feel exuberant?

The best gifts aren’t necessarily the biggest and most expensive ones. As the renowned Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran wisely observed, “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Do you have an experience you can bring to mind to remind yourself of that truth? I do.

One summer day, not long after my husband and I had moved into a new home, my almost five-year-old neighbor Sophie peeked through the bushes separating her backyard from mine and introduced herself. After she and I had exchanged some important facts about each other, like how old she and her sister were and the names of my kitties, she suddenly asked, “What’s your favorite color?” “Well, I like yellow,” I replied. In an instant, she was off, disappearing around the side of her house and calling behind her shoulder, “Stay right there, stay right there!” When she returned, she came bearing gifts. “Here’s a flower from our garden,” she announced, “a yellow flower.” With a smile big enough for the both of us, she stretched her arm toward me. She was carefully holding between her fingers a perfect yellow pansy.

It’s been a few years since Sophie graced me with her pansy and I’m sure she’s forgotten all about it. But I’ll never forget her gift—and the smile that leapt from her heart and landed smack in the middle of mine. Sophie knew instinctively what the beloved classic of India, the Bhagavad Gita, has taught for millennia: “He who offers to me [God] with devotion only a leaf, or a flower, or a fruit, or even a little water, this I accept from that yearning soul, because with a pure heart it was offered with love.” It’s not just what you give but how you give that counts. It’s not the size of the gift but the size of your heart.

How big is your heart?

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