Dec 2, 2010

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The Best Gift I Received Last Christmas

The Best Gift I Received Last Christmas

I’ve mentioned before that I love everything about Christmas. The carols, the lights, the uplifted spirits, the generosity. And I love the endeavor of finding thoughtful gifts for loved ones and appreciate the thoughtful gifts that I am given.

But last Christmas the best gift I received cost nothing. On the evening of December 25th, after all of the presents had been opened, the holiday had been celebrated, and my family sat down for a quiet meal, the most magical thing happened. Someone suggested that we go around the table and talk about what we loved about the person next to us. What came next shocked me and leaves my heart warm a year later.

Each person- each cousin, grandparent, aunt, sibling, parent- began to talk about the person next to them. They mentioned things that they admired about the person seated to their right; difficulties they had persevered through; inspiring actions they had taken. And nearly every one of us began to cry as we spoke. Tears streamed down our faces as we spoke- and listened- to the words of our extended family as we explained why we were so grateful to be related.

Sure, some of us are very close and frequently let each other know how much we mean in each other’s lives. But most of us around the table that night were extended family who had no idea the value we had in each other’s lives. Hearing the gratitude each person felt (when prompted to think about it and share) to know and be connected to the person next to them was inspiring and heart warming. It felt nearly overwhelming to hear the love, gratitude, and awe each person felt for the one next to them.

I don’t remember many of the store-bought gifts that were exchanged last year. But I will never forget the greatest gift I received– the thoughtful, heart-felt conversation we had at the dinner table when the festivities were quieting down. I am so grateful to have been part of it, to have shared the feelings I have for my extended family, and to have been privy to the feelings that were shared that night.

We don’t say these things often enough, do we? Holidays often can feel tense, despite our best efforts, because there is so much to be done, so many different people involved, so many other things going on. But stopping and sharing the love that connects a family is one of the most important things we can do when we get together. When my family did this it changed my view of my extended family and reminded me what really matters when sharing holidays with family. It’s not the gifts; it’s not the food. It’s the love. It’s the gratitude. It’s the appreciation we feel for each other– whether we’re aware of it or not.

Last Christmas I received a gift that changed my view of the holidays and will stay with me for the rest of my life. And it was free. Maybe your family will give each other a similar gift this year. The results might surprise you.

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