Thoughts on Christmas giving.

Yesterday we stopped off at Starbucks for my favourite chai latte, toasted panini with slow roasted tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil pesto. One of the Christmas carols which were playing, was Johnny Mathis singing that old song “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” It reminded me of a Maxine cartoon I once saw, and having seen the shopping frenzy at the Mall last weekend, it seems very appropriate.

It seems to me, that with every passing year, Christmas is more and more about getting ‘stuff’, rather than the actual “good will to all men,” which it used to be. “What do you want for Christmas?” or “What presents are you getting?” are questions we’re often asked at this time of year. Adults are often worse than the children, and have their sights set on acquiring all the loot which has eluded them throughout the year, and they encourage their children to do the same. I was reading the other day that someone every year unashamedly makes a “Greed List!”  For myself, I would much rather have a small token gift, which is given with love, than something I’ve ‘ordered’. Santa is most welcome to bring unexpected little surprises for which I will be very grateful.

The subject of unexpected gifts got me thinking about “random acts of kindness,” which actually cost us very little, and sometimes absolutely nothing at all in monetary terms. Even here in Florida, I see homeless people, begging at the traffic lights. It’s such a sad sight, and I’m sure they get so used to people just ignoring them, as though they’re invisible. Have you ever given them something, and seen their face light up because your kindness and recognition was so unexpected? I remember once, many years ago when we were travelling from Johannesburg to Durban for our holidays, we stopped at a gas station, and I went to use the restroom. I’m usually highly irritated by the cleaners hanging around the wash basins hoping for a tip, but that day, a little voice in my head told me to be kind, and before I knew it, I’d pulled out a R20 note and wished her a happy Christmas. I think I was as surprised as she was, but we both felt really good about it.

The unexpected kindness,
From an unexpected place.
A hand outstretched in friendship,
A smile on someone’s face.

A word of understanding,
Spoken in an hour of trial.
Are unexpected miracles,
That make life more worthwhile. ~ Helen Steiner Rice

I’m not suggesting that we go around showering strangers with handouts, but perhaps we do need to think of others much more than we do. We all live in the same world and are all trying to get by the best way we can, so we need to show one another a little more respect and kindness; a bit more courtesy on the roads, not fighting someone for that coveted parking space, a smile to a stranger, making a long overdue phone call, saying you’re sorry even though you don’t think you were in the wrong, taking a friend a bunch of flowers. All these things can make an unexpected difference in our lives and the lives of those around us.


Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. ~Mark Twain

(My header is the beautifully decorated reception area at our club.)

87 comments on “Thoughts on Christmas giving.

  1. Completely agree – the beauty of random acts of kindness do so often seem lost in all of the ‘stuff’ in the stores. So nice to know there are others out there who feel the same, and still practice the best kind of giving 🙂

  2. The one unexpected act of kindness that will always stay with me came in return for my own random act of kindness. Last winter, instead of simply hosting a holiday gathering, I informed all the guests that we would be preparing plates of food for the homeless and asked everyone to bring turkey breasts, bread, cereal bars, and so on. After we’d put the plates together (with homemade cranberry relish, fresh vegetables, wrapped sandwiches – the works), a friend and I drove around L.A. handing out the plates. Having advocated for homeless people in the past, I expected that most wouldn’t be really aware that this was a kind gesture on our part; and indeed, most of the people we encountered were paranoid or suffering from a psychotic process that rendered them difficult to approach. We didn’t expect thanks. But we WERE thanked, by a lucid homeless man. When I handed him the plate, he asked, “why are you doing this?” “We just wanted to help. Sometimes shelters are a ways away,” I said. “You’d really do something so nice, for a stranger?,” he asked me, clearly mystified. My friends and I felt good enough just helping people who needed help, but this man’s genuine gratitude was an unexpected gift to all of us. Really, whatever presents I opened last year weren’t nearly as important to me as that man’s reaction.

  3. lovely post…almost a year back, i read a book ’29 gifts’ by Cami Walker and since then, giving has been an integral part of my daily routine. Keep doing the random acts of kindness.Don’t think what difference it will make.Just remember that no matter how big or small, every act of kindness makes a difference!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Swalia. Yes it’s so true. Every little act of kindness or friendly smile, makes the world a better place for someone. 🙂

  4. I guess it all comes down to what our heart sees in the actions and gestures of others. This goes beyond attitudes and intentions.The beauty is that irrespective of what is said or done, the heart “knows” the thoughts and feelings behind.

    Loved the post.


  5. A thoughtful post, perfect for this time of year when the idea of giving gets out of hand, promoted by business and joined in by obligation … how much more meaning we could find in random acts of kindness, thank you Sylvia for sending our hearts flying towards those in need 🙂

  6. This is what Christmas is all about. To give generously and to take, really care for others. It’s making everyone us feel happy. I do love the Starbucks holiday flavors and colors. Indeed it looks and feel like CHristmas. Wishing you and your family all the joy of this holiday season.

  7. So true. It would be great if each of us would donate some of that holiday loot to a homeless shelter and give all that gifting a ramped down break. Beautiful post…

  8. My husband and I are long past giving gifts to each other for Christmas and make this a time to help the less fortunate. When we simplified our lives several years ago, it was so liberating. There really is not much any of us really needs in life to be happy, is there?

  9. People surely must be reminded that not everyone experiences the merriments of holidays. That, while a lot of people are smiling decorating trees with ornaments and illuminating their house, this is a stressful part of the year for those who are unpriviledged, alone or are away from their loved ones. This is the time of the year to “reach out”.

  10. Thank you for the kind thoughts, AD! “..make an unexpected difference” is so well said. My husband and I don’t shop for each other for Christmas, we pick a couple of charity org. to give. We also have told our daughter not to buy anything for us. Once a year, she gives some money to the University that she graduated to establish a scholarship. Love the quotes!

  11. Since Jeff and I are both unemployed (but looking) we decided that this Christmas, no presents. It’s like a withdrawal thing for a little while, and then you say, what do we really need (nothing, besides jobs that is ) and where can we be more useful. Nice post, ad. Gentle reminder. 🙂

    • We also don’t really need anything, Gemma. Very wise decision, Gemma. I do hate buying stuff, just for the sake of having something to open on Christmas Day. Now, a box of chocolates, is a different story altogether. 🙂

  12. I agree so whole-heartedly with your thoughts. I find myself doing less and less of the gift thing every year and more and more of the experiential things … coffee, snow-shoeing, baking, getting together with friends, etc. It is so much of a happier time with less stress and more meaningful interactions. Cheers to less commercialism at Christmas time. Thanks for bringing this up.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion,Lexi.Christmas has really lost it’s sparkle now that it’s become so commercialised and seems to be all about shopping for ‘stuff’. I’m sure the manufacturers and retailers are laughing all the way to the bank.

  13. I’ve felt this way for ages and have pretty much managed to snuff most of the shopping frenzy. Makes for a much happier season in my opinion!

  14. Giving all year round is my idea of Christmas 😉 This year I’ll be with the children again as they come from far and wide to visit – as far as I’m concerned this will be my greatest gift 😉

  15. There was an article in the WSJ a couple of days ago about
    The Science Behind Gifting.
    Among other claims the research indicated that regifting is fine, the more money you spend on a gift will not necessarily translate out to greater appreciation, and it’s *not* the thought that counts. In other words, the research claims that people are generally more happy receiving a gift they actually desired, then one a person spends a lot of time and effort on being ‘thoughtful’.
    Who knows? Interesting though I thought.

    • Yes, that is interesting, Phil. If my arm is twisted hard enough, I do manage to come up with a gift suggestion which is something I would probably go out and buy for myself, if someone else didn’t get it for me. 🙂 I’m always reluctant to actually ask for anything though.

  16. You are spot on in all you say Sylvia. Imagine if every single person cut their spending on materialistic presents and gave half to a good cause, the world would be a much nicer place. And a simple act of kindness, a smile or friendly word to someone lonely would make so much difference.

    • Agree wholeheartedly, Gilly. Within the family, it needs to be a mutual agreement though, or one can look mean when it comes to present opening time. 😦

  17. Wonderful post for Christmas and really the rest of the year too. Kindness and thinking of others works every day of the year 🙂

  18. Very well said ad. I have had the same thoughts, Christmas is getting out of hand with friends and family here. I think a small gift to one another is fine, but also it is a good thing to remember other who may need our help and kindness.

  19. I tried a few years back to initate a family scale down on pressies and was disapointed when they were not receptive. But like you I enjoy the gifts that have been given with thought by somebody who has taken the time to really think of what I like and would appreciate, regardless of value.

  20. What you do when no one is looking is the true measure of ones character. Christmas or the holiday season is about giving. A kindness can never be returned to the store but it can be re-gifted.


  21. We have for the last few years just bought two adult presents to the value of R50.00 and one present for the grand children with a value cap on it as well… on Christmas day the kids get there sock full from Father Christmas and then they deal out the presents getting one from each family… they also deal out one present to an adult male and one to an adult female.. this is random and I always sit and hope I get my own back as it is always chocolates… we then rather give a portion to one of the church funds that deals out a Christmas meal to the homeless…. it has reduced the hundreds we have spent on unwanted presents.. and rather fed some one less well off than us… not that we’re rich but we do have the normal comforts of home… I hate getting presents in any case… I would far rather give than receive…

    • This sounds like such a great way to deal with the insanity which tends to prevail at this time of year. Well done to you and your family for reaching a consensus on the matter, and I’m sure those homeless folk really appreciate their Christmas lunch. 🙂

  22. Just love that last picture, did she really want to cross the road 😉

    Makes me feel old when a youngster wants to help me, very kind, but then I realise how I must look to young people even though I don’t feel old and pride myself on keeping very fit.

  23. Quite right AD.
    I posted a Bing Crosby song last night – it’s not about the things you do at Christmas, it’s the Christmas things you do the rest of the year.
    We would do well to remember that 😉

  24. Hit the nail on the head with this one. Sometimes I wonder if growing older allows us to figure it out. …. Meanwhile, my Christmas Eve post will fit the definition of simple Christmas gift … but I won’t say more.

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