We are well into the holiday season and Christmas is just a few weeks away.  I have been giving that a lot of thought, recalling those Christmas morning as a child and all the wonder and excitement.  Then I flash to mornings with my own children and relive those memories.

Another thought occurs to me:  Those mornings as a child, what did I learn?   What did I take away from the experience?  I have the same question about my own children’s experience.  What was their impression of those times?  What did they learn?  What did they take away that is now a part of their lives and the lives of our grandchcildren?

I recall a Christmas, not long ago, when one of our grandchildren was counting the wrapped gifts with her name to make sure her brother (or sister) did not have more!  So, what was the lesson?

We work hard to make Christmas special for our families.  This often translates into brightly wrapped packages, piling higher and higher beneath the tree.  I find myself wondering if the visions of “sugarplums dancing in their heads” may turn into seeds of greed?  Am I just being a Grinch or what is the lesson?

There is a lesson to be learned in almost every situation and we parents occasionally give that a passing thought, or perhaps an intentional thought. So, I ask myself, what would be the perfect gift?  How about a gift that leaves an indelible memory and life lesson all in one experience.

In gifting our children, too often we have said “what would you like for Christmas?” then we set out to find that very gift.  On the other hand, we have gifted our children with the experience of traditions, camping, travel, family games, reunions, and so forth.  From their feedback we know that they have fond memories of those experiences, and we can see that those experiences have effected how they gift their children.

Again, would be the perfect gift?

For several years I worked with a colleague, and each year, during the season of Christmas, he, his wife and two children, journeyed to Chicago where for a period of time they all volunteered, working at various “soup kitchens” for the homeless.  I have only sketchy details of their volunteerservice, but I do know that he and his wife considered the time they all spent together serving and visiting the homeless was part of an invaluable gift that they could give to their children…a gift of generosity, of humility, of humanity, of integrity, of reality.  A gift with life lessons.

Those children are now grown and the gift that they received during those many holiday ventures is evident in each of their lives and careers.  I have often recalled with fondness the power of that simple gift of sharing and generosity that this family experienced, and the gift, in turn, continues to touch the lives of others.

Perfect gift?  Maybe.  I rather think that the gift went far beyond the actual event, the actual experience.  It demonstrated something very important in the lives of those children…a gift that they now possess that has value only when it is given away.  Rather like love.

For What It’s Worth.