Giving is complicated – or is it?

By Michal Lloyd

About fourteen years ago, I ended up in the hospital for a neurological disorder. While there, I was immobile for the entire time, which made me very weak. I returned mid-holiday season. Once I was home, I didn’t have the energy to make Christmas the homey affair I wanted for my daughter with the smell of baking cookies and sparkling lights blinking. It was depressing. 

Then something happened. One morning my daughter stepped onto the front porch and found a wrapped present with a poem attached. We were all enthralled. Again, the following morning, it happened. We would try to catch the elf in action, but we were never successful. The small gifts kept showing up on our doorstep for two weeks. We would eagerly read the poetry that came with each gift and laugh. We would ponder who it was. Was it our neighbor or a friend who lived close by? We didn’t know. We have yet to find out who left those gifts.

It was one of the best presents I have ever received. It was a gift of wonder. It was, above all, a gift of distraction. It distracted us all from self-pity and despair. It brought us joy. It made us believe in hope and maybe a little magic. 

As a child, my grandparents, who I lived with until I was five, didn’t do much to instill a belief in Santa Claus. I always knew they were purchasing the gifts since everything was bought from the Sears and Roebuck catalog and arrived by post. So, I didn’t grow up believing in that way. The adult experience of feeling enchantment and wonder reminded me of the importance of believing in holiday magic–a feeling I hadn’t felt since my grandparents gave me an Easy Bake Oven and I baked my first cake. The myth of Santa Claus teaches us that there is magic and hope in the world. These are lessons that I am grateful to have learned. 

Giving is an opportunity to instill awe in another. It is a special something, not necessarily a material thing, but that connection with our fellow human beings. 

When we can’t inspire awe in our loved ones, we can give something else that doesn’t cost a penny–but pays dividends. We don’t usually think of giving as related to time, but time is the most challenging and essential gift.  

In the hotel industry, where I spent my past life, we considered hotel rooms inventory. Like apples or melons to a farmer, hotel rooms spoil. At the beginning of the year, you have 365 days; if you have 39 rooms, that is 14,235 room nights.  If you don’t sell a room on a specific day, you can never recoup the loss. Days that pass are lost opportunities. I use the same rule with my family. Suppose my mother wants to go for a walk, my daughter wants to go to an event, or my husband wants to chat. I try to be present with them. A good day is a day I’ve maximized my relationships.  

The “right person, right time, right price” is what we said in the hotel biz. It is pretty much the same with family and friends. Maximize your days. We think that gifts are about sparkles and large amounts of money spent on shiny things. But you can’t make up for lost days with glitter, but you can with time and magic.

Enjoy your holiday season and have a Happy New Year!

Looking for some additional parenting tips this holiday season? Listen to the Talk They Hear You podcast Episode #1: Parenting Through the Holidays