I started thinking about what I want. My kids ask me every year, and I struggle to come up with something material or tangible for them to give me. We live in a country where our material needs and wants are pretty easily gratified. When I take inventory of my possessions, I realize my needs are covered. I don't need more THINGS.
So, what do I want? What do I need? What do people want and need?
I made a list of what I think:
1. People want to be seen. They want their presence to be acknowledged and to receive a respectful nod when they encounter others. They need eye contact and smiles, affirming appreciation for their presence.
2. People want to be cared about. They need to know that their existence in this world matters, and that somebody will miss them when they are gone.
3. People want to do something that matters. They need to feel like they are contributing to the world in some way. They want to know that somebody's life is different, and better, because of them.
4. People want their pain to be acknowledged. The holiday season is not joyful all the time for everyone.
The "first" everything after a significantly painful loss can feel devestating. I remember when my sister died right before Thanksgiving, I didn't think I would ever smile or laugh again. I was enveloped in a cloud of pain. Everyone around me seemed happy and as if they expected me to just drink in their joy.
I remember one evening I was sitting in a church pew, my heart aching, and a gentleman approached me and said, "I am so sorry about the loss of your sister. It must hurt a lot right now." I needed that, because it did, and it helped to know I wasn't alone.
5. People need awareness. In order to truly meet the needs of others - people need to be fully present with the human beings around them. Purchasing the perfect gift is not as important as expressing concern and love and acceptance. Serving a meal is important, but serving it in love is what truly impacts the world.
Those are the things people want and need. If we really want to give gifts that have a lasting impact, we will practice meeting those needs - not just at the holidays, but all the time.