For Release December 18, 2001

The Best Christmas Gift Of All

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Over the years Iíve written about 19 different pre-Christmas columns. Some were serious, some were funny, all were sincere. Iíve talked about gifts for myself, gifts you can give others and gifts for certain groups of people. I donít recycle my columns; I recycle ideas, but not the actual column. So I spent most of last week, all weekend and even all day Monday trying to figure out what to write about this week.

Christmas is a religious holiday that has been adopted by much of the rest of our culture. It often turns into a giant gift giving occasion. I did some Christmas shopping the past few days. While many other people were on the verge of running hither and yon, I just took my time and watched the people. Many of them were obviously worried about what to give. Little ones were worried about what they were going to get, sometimes to the point of tears.

While I chuckled to myself about that, it also saddened me a little to think that so many people were getting so stressed out as they approached a holiday that should be so happy and special. We sometimes forget what we are celebrating at Christmas. Maybe too many are celebrating a tree surrounded by material possessions.

As I grew up, survived college and landed something resembling a real job, I found that my life simply kept getting busier and busier. I find myself going to a lot of meetings and working with a lot of different groups. During certain times of the year, it isnít uncommon for me to have meetings or activities three or four nights out of the week. Yet I seem to always find more things that I would like to help with, IF I just had the time. I seem to keep running into the same people at these events. It seems as if a few people in the community are the volunteers that keep so many activities going.

How many times have we seen someone else, or even caught ourselves, buying an extra special gift for a family member to make up for all the times that we were too busy to be with them for some occasion. We try to make up for our absence by purchasing a material possession.

Maybe itís time that we re-think our motivations at Christmas. Maybe itís time that we take another look at what we are trying to accomplish. Maybe itís time that we give less of things that can be wrapped up and put under the tree, and give a little bit more of that ultimate gift; our time. Instead of feeling guilty for not being there for a spouse or a child, maybe itís time that you give the gift of yourself and actually be there.

Nothing means more to the ones you love than yourself, your time and your attention. My wife has already given me a gift this year that is beyond value. Iíll tell you more about that in weeks to come, (but it isnít a child!) It is a gift that I never expected, but I will treasure for ever.

Maybe this is the year that you give a present to your community. Instead of thinking to yourself about how you always see the same people involved in church, civic group or community events, you get involved as a volunteer. Donít wait to be asked, start doing the asking yourself. And then donít make up excuses about why you canít do something.

The very holiday that we are about to celebrate has its roots in giving. It wasnít the giving of anything you could put in a box under a tree. Your time is very valuable to you. But it is also very valuable to your family and your community. The greatest joy comes not in the getting, but in the giving. And the giving that comes from deep within yourself brings the rewards that are beyond measure. I hope this holiday season is a very rewarding and special one for all of you! Merry Christmas everyone.


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