This may be the most important advice I can give you when it comes to what kinds of gifts you should give.
Mark 12: 28-33
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Your neighbour: the person beside you. The person on the bus with you. The person in the grocery line with you. The person who sits beside you in church. The person in the bedroom down the hall. The person on the other side of town who you meet for coffee. The person you talk to, visit with, see, touch, know. EVERYONE is a neighbour of yours in some way. And if you are to love them as you love yourself, that changes how you shop for gifts, doesn’t it?
If you could have THE MOST thoughtful gift from anyone, what would it be?
Think about that and then think about how you have given and purchased gifts in the past. Do you run into the store on Christmas Eve and grab the latest , greatest(not) bath accessories basket for your mother in law? Or how about that cheap toy for your nephew? Or maybe some pajamas on sale because ‘who doesn’t like pajamas?’
Okay, so clearly these are not the most thoughtful gifts. We need to clear our minds and shake off the bad habits we’ve developed about ‘anything is better than nothing’. Because at the end of the day, it’s all just stuff. More stuff we don’t need that we feel obligated to buy.
Here are some ways to give thoughtfully:
1. A family who has moved into a new house recently: how about a new mailbox and new house numbers? They’re a frivolous purchase for someone with house expenses but very thoughtful as a gift.
2. New parents are sometimes struggling with lack of sleep, lack of support and lack of funds. Knowing that someone is there and sees/understands this stage is priceless. What I wouldn’t have given to have had a break in those early years. A laundry basket filled with diapers, formula, baby food, laundry soap and a meal or two is the perfect gift for new parents. A coupon book for free babysitting or letting Mom have a nap in her own house while you watch the baby for a couple hours. Add to that a gift card for a local steakhouse and you just have the young couple a date!
3. For grandparents, this cool subway art with all of their grandkids’ birthdates is perfect! You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have something special. And it fixes that age old problem of your parents calling you to find out what birthdays they’ve missed. 😉
4. A letter that your grandpa wrote to your grandma in their courting days would be a lovely gift copied and framed and given to your parent and uncles/aunts. It’s unique and exclusive to your family.
5. A handwritten recipe from your mom or grandma’s recipe box, enlarged and framed for your siblings.
6. Vinyl Records are coming back into fashion but there are still tons of them to be found on buy/sell websites, thrift stores and ebay. If you know of a group or song that meant something to someone special, finding that record would be a touching thought. Just make sure your recipient has a record player or you might have to buy that too!
7. Sometimes you might have to spend a bit more to do the thoughtful gift. We had a couple of good years when we owned our own company. I asked my husband ahead of time if I could have $1000 to get him something. We NEVER spent that kind of money on each other. It was always small purchases or nothing at all. I figured he earned something awesome. I collaborated with a friend a few hours away and we both bought our husbands tickets to a Leafs/Bruins game in Toronto. We booked the flight and then made up cards to reveal the surprise. Neither knew what was to come. We gave them their cards with the tickets on Christmas Eve. We were 8 hours apart but they phoned each other right after they opened the gifts~shock and disbelief. It was a priceless moment. They were able to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame and have a complete guy weekend that they would have never planned on their own. Once in a while, spending your entire Christmas budget on something this big is totally worth it!
8. For a guy, finding a state or provincial license plate with their birth year on it is pretty special. Try to get their state or province of birth.
9. I love photobooks. They are so easy to do with digital online websites. I love personalizing and adding comments. There are literally endless ideas when it comes to photobooks:
- scanning slides from your parents’ or grandparents’ stash and publishing the photos( this is on my to-do list)
- a family event from the past year that someone may have missed
- a collection of family photos from over the years of your extended family….seeing how everyone has changed
- childhood photos of one or both of your parents
- a family history book with as many photos as you can find from any and all sources
- baby,child and teen photos of all the grandkids in the family to give as a group gift to grandparents
- if you can, get photos of significant family homestead sights, gravestones, barns, towns where your loved one grew up or where the family had its origins in the country~build your book as a story: old photos with new ones
The possibilities are endless. I like Shutterfly. I use their Custom Path method to personalize to my liking. Here is a sample of a book I did earlier this year to memorialize my grandfather’s funeral.
10. For your love~how about the first love letter he ever wrote to you, framed? Or your wedding vows.
11. Last year I got my husband a digital photo frame with pictures of our farm, the kids , the dogs, some of our favourite times together. He was living/working away from home and very homesick. He loves that gift~still has it on beside his computer on his desk and regularly takes time to look through and pray for all of us.
12. Do you have a reader in the family? Someone who loves books but is running out of bookshelves? That’s me! My dear friend Tammy surprised me with a Kindle in the mail this spring. I never thought I would want one as I love the feel of a real book in my hands, but I was SO wrong. I love my Kindle. So small and compact and very easy to use and read. I have tons of books on it. What I particularly love is all the books that come out free, sometimes for only 24 hours but if you can catch them, you can save them to read at another time! I have about 15 on there right now that I have yet to read but they didn’t cost me a cent(and they’re all new titles). A Nook, Kindle or any other digital book tablet is a really great choice for the reader on your list.
13. Handmade~but just not anything that you picked up at a craft sale. Something made by you for someone is the most special gift because you sacrificed time and energy, patience and planning. When you make a gift for someone, you are telling them they are worth it. A piece of furniture, a doll cradle, a baby afgahn, a pair of slippers, a new bedspread, a snowboard case(I need to do that this year!), a messenger bag, an iPod case, an iPad cover….so many options!
Check out my Pinterest boards:
14. Finally, one very thoughtful gift is that of a person. Maybe you have a family member who lives a long way away. Does your mom have a kid that lives far from home? Pay for her to go fly there for a visit. Give her the itinerary for Christmas. Or fly in a special someone for Christmas. Christmas is not about things, it is about people and therefore, bringing people together in my books is THE BEST GIFT EVER. This requires coordination, collaboration and finances but so worth it.(work together with siblings, aunts, uncles or whomever to get it done)
Okay, so there’s a few ideas. Are you getting the picture?
What are some of YOUR ideas for thoughtful gifts?
A kind heart. A generous giver.
This is how we will Redeem Christmas~removing the rush, panic, stress and obligations of giving.