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The season of giving.
December 7, 2016

Give a Gift from Your Heart

The season of giving.Fans of early-twentieth-century American literature often choose this time of year to reread “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry. In that story, a poor housewife sells her only asset—her long hair—to a wig-maker so she can buy her husband a pocket-watch chain for a Christmas present. That evening, he surprises her with a Christmas gift of hair ornaments he sold his only watch to buy.

“Magi,” which in the original Latin referred to a caste of Persian priests, is now associated with “wise men” because that was how the King James Bible translated “Magi” when retelling the original Christmas story. And the moral of “Gift of the Magi” is that the greatest wisdom is being “foolish” enough to give one’s best for love—whether or not any obvious material benefit comes from it.

The Season of Giving

Even if you hate romantic literature, there’s probably someone in your life whom you want to give a special gift this holiday season. Or at least, like most newly sober addicts, you’re tired of being all “take,” and are freshly intrigued by the joy of holiday giving.

But what to give? Maybe you spent all your assets on your drug habit and are currently living in a halfway house with no job. Or maybe you’ve always burned yourself out shopping for twenty people, and you know your sobriety resolve won’t withstand that stress.

Don’t despair. There are always inexpensive and meaningful options. But first, a couple of general tips:

Limit your list. You don’t have to give to every second cousin, everyone on your LinkedIn network, or even everyone who sends you something. Give individual gifts to people you’re particularly close to. With near relatives, consider one multi-user gift per household. Anyone more distant will probably be glad to let “obligatory” mutual exchange die quietly.

If you don’t know them well enough to be sure what they would like, send a quick holiday greeting or nothing at all. Again, sometimes the best gift you can give others is to not burden them with a feeling they must reciprocate.

Giving Your Best

Once you have that small list of those who mean the most to you personally, offer them:

  • The gift of creativity. Your handmade gifts were appreciated when you were little: why not now? Of course, you won’t throw together a page of crayon scribbling or a clay ashtray. Nor will you knit a sweater when you hate domestic handicrafts. But you can recapture the childhood joy that creates for the pleasure of it, and proudly presents the results without worrying about whether they look amateurish. Choose a creative activity you truly enjoy (whether photography, poetry or woodwork), and have a good time making something beautiful for someone you love.
  • The gift of time. Your childhood gift-giving may also have included “coupon books” offering “one dish-washing here, one garage-cleaning there” and the like. With or without coupons, you can give someone special a hand with the chores or with a do-it-yourself project. You can also give a romantic evening at home or a short but special trip.
  • The gift of gratitude. Besides sending thank-you notes to anyone who gives you a gift, consider turning a few thank-yous into gifts in their own right. It doesn’t have to be prompted by any holiday present you received, or anything else that happened recently. Instead, take time to write someone, in detail and in longhand, about how much they’ve meant to you over the years. Tell them how much you appreciate what they taught you, their patience during hard times, even their pressuring you into getting help for your addiction.

It’s time we all re-discovered the joys of making December more than a shopping season. Especially for those who’ve recently come out of the selfish addiction lifestyle, it’s a great time for getting away from stuff and back to self. Give your loved ones something that’s less striving-to-impress and more you.

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