By Timmy McCaffery, Jr., Associate Director of the Family Life Apostolate
“The Lord loves a cheerful giver!” We’ve all heard St. Paul’s proverb from 2 Corinthians, but how much do we really let it guide us during the season filled with so much gift-giving? We sing songs and watch movies about giving, we make lists, and pile up presents under trees. It can be easy to allow this annual ritual to become mechanical, and to resort to just trying to check people off of our lists. As our schedules get rapidly busier over the coming weeks, how can we remember to hold each unique person in our thoughts as we choose what to give them or what to do for them? What kind of lessons are we teaching those around us, especially our children, about giving and receiving as their Christmas memories build?
As a general rule when giving any gift, it’s important for parents to be on the same page when it comes to things like budgeting for Christmas gifts and what kinds of gifts to give their children. These norms will differ from family to family, but there are some principles that should remain no matter who we’re giving to or what the cost may be.
It’s important for us, first, to remember what generosity is; ultimately, we want to put ourselves in the shoes of the other person. If we think about it, the gifts we get most excited about are from those who seem to know us better than we know ourselves. This does not mean that we have to give “the perfect gift” or the most expensive; gifts bring true joy for the giver and the recipient when we sincerely desire the happiness of the other and the recipient feels known and loved. This kind of giving will teach our children that gifts shouldn’t be given randomly or mechanically, but rather, intentionally.
Making a physical list of names is a good start, but then spend some time thinking and especially praying about each person, awakening an appreciation for their uniqueness. This time commitment can seem overwhelming at first when we look at the size of our list, but just a few minutes of prayerful reflection on each individual will make a very noticeable difference. At the end of the day, we are participating in the giving of the One who gives to each of us as the unique individuals we are, and He will help us if we ask Him!