Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thoughts on Christmas + Kindness

As we say goodbye to 2013, I want to share a few thoughts on our Christmas gift giving practices this year, and talk about kindness.   

First up, Christmas.  Unlike previous years, we decided not to exchange gifts with our extended families.

That meant no gifts for our parents, our siblings, or their kids.

Yes, it was quite radical, but Brian and I felt it was the best thing for our family of three.

My load was considerably lighter in December because I wasn't shopping for 15+ family members, wrapping gifts, and mailing packages.

And because of this, for the first time in years, I felt calm in the month of December.
Not overwhelmed.  Not stressed.  Not "How-am-I-going-to-get-all-this-done?" crazy. 

I was peaceful.  Happy.  Balanced.

I also felt free.

Free to host a get together with friends.  Free to play with Noah.  Free to exercise during nap times, instead of shop online.  Free to whip up two batches of peppermint bark.  Free to watch a few Christmas specials with our family.  Free to take photographs. Free to spend time with my husband.   

Of course, I did shop. A little.  For our son, Noah.

Brian and I stuck to the "somethings" model we used last year: 1) Something he wants; 2) Something to read; 3) Something to wear.

1) Noah couldn't exactly tell us what he wanted, but we know he loves guitars, so we bought him this toy guitar.

2) We bought Noah this board book.

3) We purchased new Christmas pajamas for Noah.

And of course, Santa surprised Noah with a special gift (a workbench) and a stocking filled with goodies.  Plus, his grandparents showered him with a crazy number of presents. 

A few days before Christmas, as I was thinking about and appreciating how much lighter I felt without the stresses of the season, I came across an Allstate ad in Parade (December 22, 2013), which really resonated with me.   

It said: "People spend an average of $800 on holiday presents, but kindness is still the greatest gift of all.  Presents and parties are nice, but it's how we treat each other that brings out the good in us all."

Eight hundred dollars. Wow.

There was also a list entitled, "Gifts of Kindness." 

Like volunteering to babysit a friend's kids.  Or dropping off your magazines at a local nursing home.  Or giving up your seat on a bus.  Or posting your extra coupons on the bulletin board at work.  Or letting a family with kids cut in front of you in line at the grocery store.

These are the best gifts of all: the ones that come from the heart and require no money.

Reading this list of "good deeds" reminded me of a delightful book I bought several years ago called One Good Deed a Day

It's a journal filled with 365 small actions in which you show kindness to others or kindness to yourself.

Here are some examples:
Take a yoga class.  (completed)
Pay for someone behind you at the lunch counter. (not yet)
Be the first to apologize.  (completed)
Help; don't ignore.  (completed)
Say yes.  (completed)
Schedule your annual physical.  (not yet)

I've completed about two-thirds of the journal's kindness actions in the past few years (doing one a day wasn't realistic for me), and have really enjoyed it.   

In 2014, I want to continue to carve out time to share gifts of kindness.


Bethany Grace Martin said...

Jennie, I'm just catching up on my reading, and I'm so glad I did! Your ideas resonated with me following the deluge of Christmas giving. Even though my family tried to give meaningful or consumable gifts to others, it was still just a lot of stuff passing between us and I felt sad afterwards for all the busy. I noticed that my children quickly lost interest in all the new things people gave them, but they were obviously impacted by the extra special time people took to do things with them. Thanks for this good advice to make giving kindness a priority, and I will tuck it away for the end of this year!

Jennie said...

Thanks for your comment, Bethany! I am enjoying reading your haiku poems. :-)

stephanie howell said...

Beautiful post. So very true. And your family is ADORABLE! Happy 2014!

Jennie said...

Thanks for your comment, Stephanie! Happy New Year to you and your family.

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