It has officially reached that sweet spot of the season where Christmas is just a couple short weeks away. It’s that time of the year where twinkle lights line the streets, the smell of pine and homemade cookies fill the home, and you can hear the familiar sounds of Christmas songs everywhere you go.
I’ve always been the kind of person who plans out Christmas gifts way ahead of time so that by the time December 1st rolls around I’ve got all my wrapping supplies locked and loaded and ready to go. I get so excited about giving gifts and I absolutely love wrapping presents. This is something I realized that not everyone shares the same appreciation for (at least the wrapping part). I distinctly remember my brother years ago leaving the house on Christmas Eve to get last minute gifts and then recruiting me after dinner with the family to wrap all of them. I realize he isn’t the only one. Some people procrastinate because they just don’t know what gifts to get, some because they really want to put off wrapping, for others time is a factor, and sometimes it’s a combination of those. You don’t need to have fancy wrapping paper or decorative bows to make a gift special. In fact, you don’t even need to physically give something to give a special gift. I’ve learned that some gifts can’t be wrapped. Sometimes something as simple as quality time or acts of service can be the greatest gifts we can ever give.
Originally, I was planning to write about superficial things like gifts and gift wrapping (hence the photos of my gift wrapping adventure), but what happened today completely changed my perspective of what’s truly important. Today I went out on a scavenger hunt to give random acts of kindness to the community of San Diego. We had four teams of five people each split up and compete for most creative ways to bless people and how much we can give back in one hour and fifteen minutes. It was intended to be a great way to give back to a community while doing some team building. It ended up being a super impactful hour of my life where I got to see first hand what it really means to give a gift. We did simple things like give people a card with $5 inside of it, left $25 gift cards at the counter at Starbucks for whoever wants to use it or add to it, left $20 in singles at vending machines for people to get some food, but when we really started interacting with the people around us and saw their responses it was…dare I say it…magical.
One of my favorite stories from the day was when a team called a local elementary school and asked the office if there were any children that weren’t as fortunate as the rest of the kids. The group found out about a boy at the elementary school who was living out of a van with his mom. They went to a Wal-Mart nearby and bought some outfits for the child including a warm coat, some games, goodies, and blankets. When they arrived at the school they dropped off the gifts in the classroom to the little boy and the entire class was cheering him on as he was receiving them. When the team started to leave, a woman in the front office stopped them on the way out, eyes full of tears and gratitude and told them how great a gift that was for that little boy because that same day Child Protective Services was coming to take him away from his mom and put him in a foster home. In just those few moments, a little boy received things he normally wouldn’t have and experienced a love a generosity coming from complete strangers right before something pretty life changing will happen to him.
The team I was on went into a different elementary school and dropped off coffee for the front office staff as we sang them Christmas carols. They were so excited they asked us to interrupt the school assembly where all 800 kids were and we got in front of all of them and sang a christmas song to them (the most off-key version of Jingle Bells there is). The kids loved it and all started singing along. This was so cool to be a part of because we didn’t actually give the kids anything but our time and our cheerful spirits and the looks on their faces were so priceless.
So really, it’s not about the size of the gift, the price tag, or how it’s wrapped, but it’s about the intention behind it. Whether you are the type who starts the countdown for Christmas in June or you’re the person who is scrambling for gifts until the last minute, it doesn’t matter how you do it, just that whatever you do is done with heart and remembering what this season is all about.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May you spend these days with people so dear to you and maybe even brighten a strangers day… or life.