The retail industry has been gearing up all year for holiday sales. Holiday joy often mingles with stress this time of year. It can be a challenging time for families, can’t it?
In the early years of our marriage my husband and I hand made every gift for both our families. Handmade dresses with smocked aprons, handmade baskets filled with homemade canned goods, knitted hats and mittens, and I cross-stitched samplers in frames made by my husband. It makes me kind of tired to even write this. We started months before the holidays in order to get it all done.
My husband asked me if I was trying to give each person that perfect, life changing, fill-your-heart-with --joy gift. Well, yes, I was. I didn’t want to give generic, boring gifts. I wanted it to be thoughtful, a part of me, unique. I wanted my gifts to say, “I care about you and I spent time to make you something beautiful.” I still think this is a great attitude, but also realize it can be very stressful to take that on yourself. You can’t fulfill everyone’s dreams. (Shucks). I have come to think that I can say I care through words said, time spent with a person, a thoughtful card, a shared experience. It doesn’t always have to be stuff- handmade or purchased.
For the past few years our family has intentionally focused on spending less money and more time with those we love. We team up to consider the gift for each family member. Many email discussions bounce back and forth, batting gift ideas around. Each person then gets one gift from all of us. Not an expensive gift, but a thought-filled gift from everyone. One year we gave each other non-cash gifts and my husband and youngest daughter teamed up to pledge me a year’s worth of dishwasher-emptying, one of my least favorite household tasks.
What does your family do? Are you overwhelmed by your lists and the expectations you face? Feeling guilty and defeated that you can’t do enough? Does the amount of money you spend on inconsequential items make you embarrassed? Have you considered simplifying? Why not spend more effort on appreciating each other and less effort on finding the perfect gift?
Why not take a quiet walk with a friend, have a cup of coffee with a sister, attend a holiday concert with a grown daughter? Evenings at home with those you love can be quiet, low fuss and lovely. Put on your jammies early, get out the fuzzy slippers, watch a movie together, pop some popcorn, laugh.
Before you spend too much for too little this holiday season, give some thought to an alternative. What about giving to benefit others in this community? The River Center supports families and individuals in our community- your neighbors, friends, co-workers. We support parents who are trying to be better parents. We support pregnant women and their babies. We support those who are looking for work. We support many who are living at or near the poverty level. Last year alone, The River Center’s tax program prepared 770 free tax returns for local families whose average income was $24,000. That is not a lot of money to cover housing, transportation, food, medical expenses, and clothing.
Would you like to give something significant this year? Support The River Center so that we can keep supporting families and individuals in our community. Donations can be made at www.rivercenter.us ; 46 Concord St. Peterborough, NH 03458; or call us at 924-6800.