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Presents - 12/30/2008

It’s that time of year again.  Stress is running rampant.  People are feeling overwhelmed by all they have to do, fearful they’ll fail, conflicted over how they’re going to satisfy the expectations of parents and step parents, and are depressed about having to get together and spend time with some relatives they’ve tried to avoid all year long.  In total, there are decisions to make, deadlines to meet, lists to be organized, parties to give and celebrations to attend.  And there are the questions.  What should you wear?  Who should you invite?  What should you serve?  And most of all, what gift should you buy?  It doesn’t matter whether you’re  celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanza, the stress is there for everyone.  And with the economy the way it is this year, there’s even more stress than usual.  All of which contributes to still other questions that makes themselves evident.  How much can I afford to spend?   If I can’t spend a lot, but still want to get something meaningful, what do I purchase?  Obviously, there’s no one answer that will suffice.  It depends on who the present is for, what particularly tickles their funny bone, or might just hit their spot.  Typically, when faced with these decisions, the solution is to buy several gifts, spend even more than you originally intended, or to ask the recipient what they want.  But, no matter your chosen behavior, your emotional stress increases geometrically.  

Fortunately, there is a solution.  I’d have you  think back to presents you’ve received in the past, whether for a birthday or holiday.  I’m sure you’ll recall several gifts that stand out, ones you particularly valued or cherished for a long time after you received them.  But, the price of the gift was never your primary consideration.  

For me, there are four or five presents that really stand out.  The whole family getting together for a significant birthday and buying my present Nikon camera.   I’ll cherish it for years to come.  A three foot pottery gourd several of my friends remembered me admiring in Mexico and later got me as a birthday  gift.  A table-top water fountain for my office, which my office manager got me.  And a cone of rum raisin ice cream my wife once gave me in the middle of group therapy (which is a story in itself!)  A friend who knows my penchant for cooking gave me a beautiful silver serving tray that keeps food warm or hot.  It was a perfect gift.  I recall that, years ago, a patient gave me as flashlight that worked without batteries.  To charge it, you had to shake it rather briskly for four or five minutes.  Then it would light for a considerable amount of time.  I love it and still keep it available for emergencies.  That same year, someone who knew that I’m a gadget person presented me with several small LED lights to hang on a keychain.  For someone else, they might have been a meaningless gift.  For me, they were perfect.  I hung one on each of three keychains.  It’s been three or four years now and they still work.  I’ve never had to change the batteries.  One or another has traveled with me all over the world and, figuratively speaking, lit up my life.  Come to think of it, I almost wonder if there wasn’t a hidden message in the last two gifts?  Maybe they both  thought I was in the dark!  

The moral of the story is, however, that it doesn’t take much to really please someone, especially if you’re willing to take the time, expend the energy and give thought to the specific person you want to acknowledge this holiday season, or any other time of year.  It’s more than a gift.  It’s your way of giving of yourself, while also letting someone know they genuinely matter to you. Accordingly, this year, with the downturn of world economics and the financial crunch many of us are experiencing, it seems especially important that you take extra time, expend extra energy, and give extra thoughts to the gifts you choose to purchase.  Don’t just buy something that will be recycled later, or sit in a drawer and never be used.  Ask yourself, “Knowing my (mom and dad, brother and sister, grandparents, nieces or nephews) the way I do, what can I give them that will say ‘I thought of you, because you matter to me and I wanted you to know I think you’re special and looked for something that would light up your life’?  .

Let me say Happy Hannukah to all of you.  I appreciate your reading my bi-weekly articles.  I hope that I can continue sharing my thoughts and insights with you for a very long time to come and that one or more of them will touch a spot that allows you to see or think about something you’ve previously been in the dark about.  It’s my way of sending you my wishes for your continued good mental health, happiness and emotional growth.

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