The Joy of Giving
By Patrick L. Hempfing
She just wouldn’t let me buy her anything.” Jessie’s grandmother, my favorite mother-in-law, expressed her frustration to me about their morning trip to an arts and crafts festival. Jessie had spent Friday night at her grandparents’ house. Early Saturday morning, Jessie’s great uncle and grandmother took her to the event. Many attendees made purchases. However, Jessie’s grandmother wasn’t one of them, much to her dismay, as she wanted to buy something for her 13-year-old granddaughter.
After the festival, Jessie’s grandmother dropped her off at the library, as I had reserved a table at the library’s book fair for Jessie and me to promote my book. Before leaving the library, Jessie’s grandmother checked out the other authors’ stands. She came back to our table and told us, “I met an author who wrote a book where the story took place near a city I grew up in.”
A few minutes after Jessie’s grandmother left, Jessie whispered, “We need to go buy that book for Grandmommy.” I might have thought of this eventually, but her young brain works faster than my older one. Prior to leaving the event, I purchased the book and had the author autograph it.
When we got back to Jessie’s grandparents’ house, Jessie walked in the front door with the book hidden behind her back. She couldn’t wait until Christmas. Her grandmother’s face lit up when Jessie handed it to her.
Gift giving! Yes, it’s that time of the year when shopping days are counting down. Soon, Jessie’s grandmother will ask, “What does Jessie want for Christmas?” It’s not easy to come up with a list. On the other end, my wife and I will be pondering what we can buy her parents. I’ll probably think, Why didn’t we save that book for Christmas?
But in this calmer, pre-Christmas season, I realize Jessie’s approach is the right one. The joy is in the giving, not the receiving. And why delay the gift? Give it today!
Now, obviously, most of us want a few presents to unwrap on Christmas morning. Not all gifts are tangible, though, and need tucked under a decorated tree.
Last week, I stopped at the dance studio to pick up Jessie from her ballet class. A few minutes early, I peeked through the window of the studio to catch a glimpse of the dance routine. My eyes widened when four high-school girls lifted Jessie and held her above their heads. They spun her outstretched body around in a circle, 6 or 7 feet above the floor. When they put her down a few seconds later, she gave a quick glance to the window to see if I saw what had just happened. Oh, I saw it alright.
My gift to Jessie was that I didn’t run into the studio, yelling, “Don’t drop my baby!” As the tallest girl in her elementary school cheering squad, Jessie was always the “lifter,” not the “liftee.” Now, dancing with older girls, being twirled in the air was an exciting first for her. I’m still learning as a father, but I’m pretty sure Jessie wouldn’t have approved if I had run in with outstretched arms ready to catch her.
At the same time, though, Jessie gave me a gift. After her quick glance, I noticed the corners of her mouth curve upward. She was glad I was there to see her flying. Okay, maybe she wasn’t flying, but let’s just say Dad’s more comfortable when Jessie is the “lifter.”
In the weeks ahead, tired, frantic shoppers will be out in full force. Yet it’s good to remember we can share gifts each day, and in many cases, without spending a dime. A smile, a hug, and a good deed go a long way. Not running in to embarrass one’s child is good, too. I think one of the most appreciated gifts, though, is sharing our time.
After the authors’ book fair, Jessie spent Saturday night at her grandparents’ house. She had a wonderful time working on a painting and re-upholstery project in the garage with her grandmother. Quality time spent with a loved one combines both giving and receiving.
So, when you’re searching for a parking space or standing in long lines at the store, remember that some of the best gifts are free and don’t require a trip to the mall or a website. And when the holidays end, don’t stop the gifts. We can experience the joy of giving every day. Remember to cherish the moments. Happy Holidays.
Follow Patrick at www.patrickhempfing.com