You have what you give

You have what you give

SPREAD SOME CHEER Yes, there are 12 days to go for Christmas. But you need to start planning now. Become a Secret Santa to someone who least expects it, but may need it the most, writes Preeti Verma Lal

We all know the six-letter word ‘giving’. The dictionary will tell you that the word originated before 900; in Old Norse it was called gefa; in Old English it was gefan or geifan, words that cognate with Dutch geven, German geben and Gothic giban. But giving is not about semantics, it originates in the heart.

That is why Mother Theresa believed that giving is not about how much we give, but how much love we put in giving. Winston Churchill

associated it with life and living – we make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give. The spirit of giving could not be better explained.

And it is during the Christmas season that ‘giving’ really comes to the forefront. Workplaces start buzzing with Secret Santa gift exchange projects; malls are cluttered with people buying gifts for family and friends; children pull out their wish-list, hang the stocking and wait for Santa Claus;

at the foot of each Christmas tree lies the anticipation of gifts arranged neatly.
However, in recent times Christmas ‘giving’ has acquired a very commercial hue. Think of it, in the United States, Christmas gift sales in 2013 amounted to about $ 781 billion, with Christmas tree sales alone touching $1.16 billion.

The holiday season can account for as much as 20-40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales. ‘Giving’ has become synonymous with how much money you can spend and how expensive the gift is. Amidst all the commercialisation of Christmas, I think of The Prophet.

Khalil Gibran said, “you give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give”. I think of people who have no Christmas cheer, for whom no one buys a gift, no one bakes a cake. The homeless who have nowhere to go; children who sleep hungry and have
never known a wish-list; the unfortunate who have no Santa…

This Christmas, how about being a Secret Santa? To bring happiness to someone who least expects it or needs it the most? No, you do not have to be Santa riding a sleigh and zipping across the world with a colossal goodie bag.

You needn’t necessarily participate in the now-popular Secret Santa gift exchange project. No need to empty your wallet, either. To be Secret Santa all you need is add a dash of munificence and the willingness to give unconditionally.

So, now you have decided to be Secret Santa, but do not know where to begin? Perhaps you could take cues from Gift Givers Anonymous (GGA), an American organisation that gives gifts year-around and has special Christmas Giving project. What they do is really simple.

GGA collects ‘gently used items’ or new items and gives it people who really need them. Like blankets for shelters, toys for an orphanage, books for a school in the poor neighbourhood. The idea is to continue the chain of thoughtfulness and pass a gift of kindness on.

There’s inspiration all over. Take that step of giving. And this is where you can begin. Get the family together. Talk to the children about the need to give.

Now, open your closet and shoe rack. I bet there are clothes and shoes that you no longer wear. Pull them out for those who sleep and walk barefoot in the cold.

The kids must have outgrown toys and spare stationery. But before you put them in a bag, remember to give with dignity. If the seams of the sweater are ripped, sew them before giving.

If the toy is broken, fix it before putting it in the give-away bag. Please do not give away dirty clothes. Wash them. You’d hate it if someone gave you a dust-laden gift. Give with dignity. Do not just complete the ritual of giving.
Did you just spring clean and have no give-aways? Give another way. Buy some flowers, walk into an old-age home and spread some cheer.

Check with the administration if you could help in the kitchen. If you are good at baking, bake a cake for everyone as a Christmas treat. Can’t bake? Read out stories to them. Just spend some time with them.

Sometimes all they need is someone to talk to. Why not visit an orphanage? Those who seldom have visitors tend to enjoy the pleasure of human company. Invite a friend or family member to join in.

If you are an animal lover, how about making a trip to that animal shelter? Buy some bread. Bathe the animals. Know a school for the underprivileged? Make a Christmas group from your neighbourhood.

Pool in a little money and take the kids out for a picnic. You do not have to hire a bus and go far. Head to the park and have a nice meal together. I have a biker friend who, with his friends, takes one kid on the pillion and spins around town. Just for that little laughter and a snack by the roadside dhaba.

Your maid diligently works for you all day. Do something special for her children. Ask them what they need for the school. Buy them. It doesn’t cost much to fulfill someone else’s dream.

It does not take much time to bring a smile to someone’s face. In the hurry of your own existence and the race to the top, do not forget to say your thank yous. Remember, life has been kind to you. Take that moment out to
express your gratitude towards life. Forget the Santa cap. This Christmas, become Santa. Celebrate life. Give.

This Christmas, take a pledge like Jimmy Carter: I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.
Merry Christmas! 

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