Regardless of which end of the Holiday Glee-O-Meter you reside on—maybe you’re already listening to the Christmas radio station 24/7 and your vehicle is sporting clip-on antlers, or perhaps you identify with the Meh crowd and can’t wait for all the hubbub to be over, there’s likely one thing both camps have in common.
C’mon, admit it: Isn’t there at least one person on your list who is extremely difficult to shop for? (Honestly, there might even be more than one.) These are the folks who are either finicky as can be, already have everything under the sun, or are a combination thereof.
Add to the mix a tight budget and rapidly rising consumer costs (hello, inflation!) and it’s enough to make any of us scream “Bah humbug!”
I hear you.
But what if, instead, we focused on another form of giving this year?
What if we gave up on searching for that elusive perfect thing and chose to give what we already have in our possession?
In other words: What if we focused on service and sparking genuine happiness in those around us?
I think I can already hear you: “Okay, Courtney, where exactly are you going with this hippy-dippy talk?”
The acts I’m about to explain are rather unspectacular, but they have the power to change the trajectory of our entire day—and, quite possibly, the impact could be even greater than that.
Imagine pulling up to the Tim Hortons drive-thru only to find that the person in front of you already paid for your order. Envision approaching your car one morning before work (or school drop-off) and discovering that someone has already removed the snow and scraped the ice off your windshield. Picture having the worst day ever (we’ve all been there) and then receiving a sincere compliment that blows you away.
Similarly, here are things we can do to pay it forward:
• Road construction is everywhere these days; what if we dropped off a case of water to the workers?
• When traveling, what if we agreed to change our seat so that other travelers could sit together?
• Or how about letting someone else have the closest parking spot?
• There’s a saying that bad news travels halfway around the world while good news is still putting on his shoes. But what if we flipped it? What if we wrote an expression of gratitude—to our child’s principal about our child’s teacher, to the restaurant manager about our server, or to our mail carrier directly?
I know, I know: Many of the gestures above benefit strangers. But we can also extend this same level of kindness to family and close friends:
• Attend an event, like a dance recital or sporting event, of a friend’s child.
• Create a gift certificate that says you’ll do a particular chore or errand.
• This one is the stuff of dreams for parents who are still in the trenches: Offer to babysit a child in your extended family so that the parent(s) can have an evening to themselves.
• Take the money you would have spent on a relative’s gift and purchase a gas card for them instead. (I mean, c’mon: Free gas! Swoon.)
It’s true: kindness really is the gift that keeps on giving. By acting out a few of these gestures this season, we’ll be spreading positive energy that will likely make its way back to us. And I’m pretty sure that’ll be more popular than a sweater or another pair of earmuffs.
Courtney Conover is wife, mom, yoga instructor, and Chicken Soup for the Soul contributor who has called Wayne home since 1995.