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  -- Holiday Gift Giving

Kids and Community
By Judy Shepps Battle
 

It's that time of year again -- the season for celebration. And no one knows that better than retailers.
 
The National Retail Federation estimates that the average shopper will spend nearly $800 -- an increase of $53 from last year -- on holiday merchandise for others. This doesn't include the estimated additional $100 that bargain-conscious buyers will spend on themselves.
 
While America's retailers rightfully rely on these sales for economic gain, we, as consumers, often lose in the process -- and not just from our wallets.
 
We may lose sight of the spiritual meaning of the holidays, and consequently miss a potentially "teachable moment" in the lives of our children: the opportunity to have intimate, loving interactions -- without commercial wrappings.
 
Being the Behavior
Helping our kids apply the language of the heart to gift giving is perhaps one of the most important lessons we as parents can offer. It allows youngsters to discover the joy of an emotional connection to another human being, the importance of honoring such a bond, and to realize that the process doesn't have to involve spending money.
 
To effectively teach this lesson, however, we adults must first learn to identify and listen to the language and emotional beating of our own hearts. We must pause in otherwise impossibly busy days to remember the joyful, love-filled feelings we have for special family members and friends.
 
Making time for this task is not intuitive but, once begun, the process is profound.
 
Passing it on
Some find the necessary focus in prayer, meditation or listening to gentle music. Others succeed by revisiting dusty photo albums and/or scrapbooks and simply sitting with the photos and special mementos and allowing memories and feelings to emerge.

Once inner awareness surfaces, we will intuitively model this new way of giving. It will not matter if a gift is a material item, spending quiet time with someone, or participating in a special occasion, like serving food at a homeless shelter or visiting a shut-in. A new way of interacting with others will become a part of our day-to-day interaction.
 
We may find ourselves actively listening to family members and offering genuine smiles to strangers. We might say "thank you" to the checkout clerk or pause to hold the door for the person behind us. Each act of kindness takes us into our own heart zone and each act stands upon the shoulders of the previous one to make us -- and our kids -- better people.
 
Natural Observers
Our children will observe our process and instinctively search their own hearts for similar right action. Once they identify what this awareness feels like, the sensitivity can be used as a benchmark to choose right action in any circumstance.
 
Take the experience of one young teen, for example, who describes his perception:
 
"It feels sort of like a wave of goosebumps. I just feel good when I give someone else something that says that I value them. It can be small. Last year I gave my mom a little stone that I had painted the word 'Mom' on and she was so happy. Funny thing is, I found the stone in the creek and the paint cost me just a few cents. It just really felt good giving it to her."

 
Creating an Alternative
When we adults focus on the non-material spiritual lessons within our religious or cultural tradition, we model an alternative to the commercialization of the holiday season for our children. And when we, in turn, listen to our kids express the positive feelings they get when they give from the heart, our own emotional and spiritual values will be strengthened.
 
I can't think of a better family gift for this season. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
 

Judy Shepps Battle is a New Jersey resident, addictions specialist, consultant and freelance  writer. She can be reached by e-mail at writeaction@aol.com. Additional information on this and other topics can be found at her website at http://www.writeaction.com.
 

Copyright 2007 Judy Shepps Battle


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