[Note: This post originally ran during the first Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December, 2007]
In my immediate family, although my mother tended to go overboard (but not over her head financially) with Christmas gifts for me and my brother, the giving of presents was never the real focus of the holiday. It was the opportunity to spend time with family and to honor the traditions they had kept close to their hearts for many years.
As I get older, I find that not only do I need less, but what I want is not always a physical or material object. These days we are big on "experience" gifts: a gift certificate to a day spa, tickets to a theater production, a ride on the Chicago Architectural Boat Tour, etc.
I've learned that materials items are not always important. In fact, we bought a new home within the past year that is very vintage in both its detail as well as its lack of storage. Though what might seem as a hardship or an inconvenience has turned out to be a blessing: we are forced to not only go through our possessions and constantly donate to locate charities, we also scrutinize every purchase and say "Do I really need this?" and "Where will I store this?"
And cleaning out a family member's home is a sure way to reinforce that thinking. In the past year I've had to clean out two entire houses - one with 30 years of possessions and the other with 60 years of possessions. As other family members witnessed the amount of work involved, they've also resolved to go through their possessions now, rather than later.
After all, how can you open your hands to receive something when you are still holding on tight to something else?
© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee