Art and About
Engaging with the creative force in everyday life

December 23rd, 2007

Simple Gifts

Posted by christina in Web Columns

My daughter’s preschool shares a building with an adult day care facility. The children get together with the “grandmas and grandpas” across the hall for holidays and special occasions. The children usually sing songs and the adults usually applaud appreciatively. One of the reasons we chose this preschool is for this kind of intergenerational interaction.

The tradition during the Christmas season is for the two groups to come together to sing carols. This tradition was honored earlier in December this year. When I arrived to pick up my daughter on Monday, I was surprised to see a note on the door from the teacher that the children were once again singing for the grandmas and grandpas and they would be returning to the classroom shortly. I went inside to stay warm and caught the first wave of preschoolers running back to class. With twinkling eyes and beaming smiles, they held up small red satin stockings and exclaimed, “Look what they gave us!” At first glance, the stockings looked nice enough and I gave a rather pat, “Wow! Neat!” before asking if they had a good time. “A really good time!” one boy answered.

It wasn’t until my four-and-a-half year old, Allyndreth, and I were walking to the car that she held the stocking up as close to my face as she could and said, “Look! My name!” In green letters, someone who knows their way with an embroidery needle had beautifully stitched on her name. That kind of personalized attention put into a gift truly is exciting, especially these days.

I had to reflect on an article my husband told me about in last week’s paper, talking about people who re-finance their homes so they can pay for Christmas gifts. I know credit debt in this country is astounding on any given day, but astronomical during the holidays. I know there are people in my life who sigh about not having the money to give gifts. I know that it is easy to fall prey to the temptation of wanting to show the people we love how much we love them with monetary gifts. Frankly, this is a pretty lazy way to approach gift giving and not very imaginative. Your pocket book may be poor, but your imagination is rich. If a class of preschoolers can get excited about a little stitchery from an acquaintance, then think how your loved ones would feel with a little handmade something from you. You were born with the gift of imagination. Now, use it!

The following list is far from imaginative, but it might get our brains re-programmed to the significance of small, personal gifts. This is not Martha Stewart stuff, folks. This is basic, pure, from-my-heart-to-yours stuff that anyone can do.

Pick a flower, a sprig of holly, or an evergreen branch, tie a ribbon on it and attached a homemade card. Not a fancy, specialty scissors and doodads card but a piece of paper, folded in half with your handwriting on it.

Make a plain-old handmade card with some special words about the person and a holiday greeting.

Bake cookies. Maybe attach the recipe. Draw squiggles around the recipe card or computer printout to put your personal stamp on the gift.

For the more skilled person, stitch someone’s name on a store-bought holiday trinket, like a red satin stocking. For the less skilled, write the name in colorful sharpie in your best cursive handwriting. Stick a candy inside.

Take a photo of something beautiful or a photo of your loved one. Make a paper frame, decorated however you want, and give it to them.

Think about the kids of gifts you used to make in school for your parents and grandparents. If you have children now, think about the kinds of gifts you encourage them to make for relatives. If you do these same projects as an adult and give them to your friends and family, I guarantee they will be appreciated. I also guarantee that they will be remembered long beyond the memory of the monetary gift item.

Open your eyes to the little things around you that could become inspired gift ideas and let the brainstorming begin. Instead of budgeting money, budget time. And it doesn’t even have to be that much time. Don’t we all like to hear when someone says they’ve been thinking of us? We don’t ask, “How long were you thinking of me? A minute? An hour? A day?” It really is the thought that counts.

I wish you all a thoughtful holiday season!

Simple Gifts
by Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. (1848)

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
‘Tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.


When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come round right

‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
‘Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say,


‘Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
‘Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.


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