As a woman in my 30’s I have seen many-a-Christmas’ come and go. However, I can count on one hand the tangible Christmas gifts I actually remember. Truth be told, I would not use all fingers; only three to be exact. Two of the gifts I received within the last 5 years and the other one I received when I was about five years old. Do understand, I receive Christmas gifts every year but only a red guitar (I didn’t ask for), stocks and bonds and diamond earrings are at the forefront of my memory. Of these three gifts, I actively use none of them. I do not know what happened to the red guitar, but I do know it had a short existence. The diamond earrings I may wear twice a year and the savings bonds…well I recently remembered I had them but I love knowing they have not forgot able me despite me forgetting about them!
I shared the above information because I am convinced I am not alone. I believe many people can testify to not remembering many of the Christmas presents they received. I could blame my memory lapse on not being a materialistic person but I do not know if that would be a fair statement. If I said the items were not as important as the intangible gifts I received, that would be more accurate. I have never been materialistic because let’s face it—I’ll out grow clothes, shoes will last a few years, I will carry a purse a few times before I am on to the next one and most electronics go out in two years or the latest and greatest will hit the market the moment I get a new gadget. Despite knowing this, what else could I request for Christmas other than something tangible, something material? After all, I think material things are all most people know to consciously give.
A few years back I had an “Ah-Ha” moment. I told my family not to buy me any material possessions for any occasion. I was (and still am) in a season of directing my focus to build a legacy that will last long after my earthly departure. Therefore, I opted for things that could contribute to my financial liberation and personal legacy; savings bonds, stocks, contribution to 401k, investments, etc. (I call these legacy gifts) I wanted my family to plant seeds in my legacy and not in things I would not remember. You see for me, I want there to be evidence that I graced the earth and material possessions just cannot afford me this opportunity. After all, God will only call me to Heaven, not my possessions!
Abraham Maslow, an American Psychologist, proposed a five level hierarchy of needs for humans. In his theory, he states a human must be able to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing before they can attain the higher three levels. Once these needs have been met an individual can start focusing on building and maintaining love, friendship, self esteem and self actualization. You may be asking, “What does Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs have to do with Christmas?” I offer you my experience and challenge you to find the connection for yourself.
I learned a while back that possessions do not make a person, a person makes the possessions! From Gucci to Guess to George (a popular Wal-Mart brand), my inner man makes my outer man look all the more attractive! Therefore, I do not need a lot to ensure I meet Maslow’s bottom needs, physiological and safety, respectively. Since I have met those needs I find myself teetering between stages 3-5, love/belonging, esteem and self actualization.
During the holidays there is a sweet spirit of generosity, concern and love that simmers throughout the universe. That spirit is contagious and lasts a life time! I do not remember the gifts I received but safely stored in my memory are the times I have fed the homeless, initiated a friendship because of a kind gesture, and demonstrated love and human equality by letting someone know they are important. I remember the euphoria of seeing children open presents my family purchased, knowing those would be the only gifts they received. I remember the sense of belonging I feel when I am with my loved ones. I remember the family reminiscing on people and events, playing games, and bonding via food. I remember the kisses from my Auntie’s, the hugs from my uncles, the family prayer, laughs and a down-right good time! I remember the morals, traditions and lessons that accompanied the holidays. These gifts have no expiration date. They will not break, go out of style or be forgotten! Today, these are the “gifts” I utilize daily: Respect, laughter, sense of belonging, love, caring, generosity. The intangibles, those are the things that matter at Christmas. These are the things children (and adults) remember most. The Play Station, I-phone, purse, shoes, and computer will soon be a distant memory but the true Spirit of Christmas will last a life time. My experience revealed it is virtually impossible not to achieve levels three, four and five of the hierarchy because if I am demonstrating love and being loved, my self esteem rises and I am able to self actualize. Connection made!
As we approach Christmas the challenge I have for you is twofold. Give gifts that 1) build character and 2) build financial stability. This Christmas, I offer you the opportunity to give a gift that continues giving decades after it was given. This could be in the form of legacy gift or the free stuff, which is the best: love, laughter, sense of belonging, etc. I know children may not understand the concept of Christmas and what it truly means. This is why adults are charged with the responsibility of educating them. Your child probably cannot recite everything they got for Christmas last year. However, had you encouraged them to give a gift to a less fortunate child or if you made them feel loved and important I am positive they remember the experience and the associated emotions. Reflect on your holiday experience. What do you remember most, the tangible or intangible? Place your value on the intangible things…Love, Kindness, Charity and the greatest gift of all, JESUS!
Copyright 2012 – Whisper. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.