Sunday, 3 December 2017

Season of Giving

In the last few days I've been thinking a lot about this phrase ''season of giving.'' We often refer to this time of year in December before and around Christmas and New Year (or Saint Nicholas here in the Netherlands where I live) as the season of giving. And while so much meaning is contained in the word giving we often reduce it to mean exchange of presents. Of course nothing is wrong with giving a present to another person, on the contrary it could be such an act of joy and pleasure for both the giver and the receiver. 
What bothers me about reducing of the word giving to mere exchange of presents is the fact that very often we buy presents for the sake of buying them, because it is Christmas and we are supposed to give a present to, for example, our brother-in-love, whom we actually do not even know that well. Apart from the fact that he plays golf and likes his garden we do not really know who he actually is, what he likes and dislikes. So we play it safe and once again, for the fifth year in a row, we buy him a book. The only variation is in the subject, last year it was a book about gardening and this year it is a humorous one about golf and golfers. He, in exchange, is giving you yet another book on vegetarian cooking, although this time it is ''Mediterranean Vegetarian Dishes'' as oppose to ''Indian Vegetarian Cooking'' the one he gave you last year. A lovely book, and, yes I acknowledge, he tried to match the subject to at least something he know about you for sure, the fact that you area vegetarian. OK, I recognize that he tried his best, given your level of closeness, but what have you really shared? Has this exchange of 'polite' presents brought you any closer or has it actually contributed to keeping you at a safe distance ensuring that you relate only through easy understandable labels such as gardener, golfer, vegetarian that you innocently have attached to each other?

What I am missing in this massive buying, spending and presents exchange exercise that all of us in our Western societies engage in during this ''season of giving'' is true deeper sharing, giving from the heart, be it a kind word, a smile, forgiveness or just a place in a queue to a total stranger.
Hence, what I really miss and would like to see more of is: giving a bit more of ourselves, giving as sharing, giving without expecting anything in return and giving not just to those that we know and are close to us, but also to those we do not know, even if it is just a kind smile of acknowledgement. In a way, what I would like to see is that we spend less time frantically running about spending more money, to get more things, to fill more space around us, all in hope that it would make us happier and more satisfied. Rather, I would like all of us to give more of our time, our thoughts and our heart to each other.

It seems that we are mistaking our needs for sharing, connection, caring and love with our strategy of giving material things to each other. As if giving you more material stuff would give you more love and care. How much love and caring is a new huge LCD screen or the latest iPhone worth? Will that new iPhone really contribute to our connecting with each other on a deeper level, giving each other the gift of our shared humanity? Or shall we use it as a gadget which enables us to have ever faster speed of connectivity without much to say to or share with each other?

Would you be able to see it as a gift if I open my heart and told you that in this season of giving all I have to give is my vulnerability? Would you be able to hear my sharing, my need to be seen and heard without hearing a criticism of you? Would you be able receive my sharing as a true gift, or would it come to you as a burden and demand on your already too tight schedule and life?

I hope that in this season of giving we all stop for a moment and we connect with our own heart and ask ourselves: what is it that I wish to share with those dear to me? What is the most precious gift I can give them? And then, do not stop there, also ask ourselves: 'what is that friend wishing to give me?' Have I received a present, but missed the gift that she is giving me through it? How can I ensure that receiving is already in the joy of giving? And how can I when receiving recognize the intention of the giver and with it double the joy for both of us?
And of course before asking any of those questions, maybe we all can stop and ask ourselves what that most precious gift is that I wish to give to myself.  Is it a bit more kindness, a bit more love, or is it just time to chill? My very close friends  is ''dreaming of being able to just sit down and watch a Xmas movie while drinking tea, and there is nowhere to rush, and there is no one (read: the children 😉'' she wrote) ''to ask me for something, rather i just doze off and by the time I wake up the movie is over 😂.''

Maybe you can find your simple version of kindness and giving both to yourself and others. And if you have trouble finding those little ideas of kindness then have a look at the Kindness Calendar above or at the for inspiration. 

I wish you all happy giving and receiving season!

P.S. I also wish to express my gratitude to the Action for Happiness  for this very inventive idea and a gift of Kindness Calendar.
If you like this article, please share it with whomever you think can enjoy or benefit from it. And please make a comment or let me know what is the best gift you would like to give or receive.