Essays

Would You Like Your Receipt In The Bag?

… or with you?

How many times have I heard that already this Christmas season? I can’t even count. Shopping, shopping, shopping… it’s what we all do this time of year. Unless, for those of you who are slightly more industrious than I, a person makes the gifts they give. I don’t. Well, let me clarify, we do, partially. But otherwise, no. We don’t. We shop, just like everyone else. Out to boutiques, and chain stores, and our favorite place to get Christmas presents… Saturday Market. At least there, we figure, the goods are made by local artists and craftspeople. At least, there’s that. At least those gifts, to a certain extent, are unique. And, by buying at the market, we support the local economy and the local arts culture. The thought of it makes us feel better. It makes us feel better buying from local Portland boutiques, buying Oregon wines and Washington cheeses. And yet, somehow, I still feel caught up in the economy of Christmas.

I like getting stuff for the people I love. I mean, really, what’s better than getting something specific for someone, something meaningful, and then watching the person open it. The expressions of joy, if you got it right, or even the attempts at gratitude, if you got it wrong, are worth it. I love giving… it’s pure joy. Much better than receiving, to me anyway. But when you’re out and about, in the holiday hustle and bustle, fighting crowds, looking desperately for THE item, it’s a bummer. You look at your list, and think… OK, I have this for that person and that for this person and DAMN, I haven’t gotten anything yet for them. I feel the pressure. What’s that about? Really, I shouldn’t feel pressure. I tell myself… don’t, it’s not about that. And honestly, it isn’t. The thing with gift giving, truthfully, is that someone thought of you. Not so much what they got you, though there’s always a reaction to it, good or bad, but really… it’s just that someone thought of you. Someone went out of their way.

To me Christmas is supposed to be a quiet time… peaceful. A celebration of family and togetherness. The time of year we shine that special spotlight on the magic, mystery and underlying joy present in every day life. It’s not supposed to be about shopping, though it is supposed to be about giving. We’re supposed to take some moments to really look at our lives and the people in them. We’re supposed to celebrate connection, be thankful for home and family, and be mindful of the gifts we get and give every day. Gifts of kindness, love, compassion, sincerity, generosity, forgiveness, joy, support, honesty, and gratitude. All of the gifts we can give, and should, throughout the year.

So, I guess, as I go through the rush of this holiday season, I will remember that yes, I’m participating in the economy of it all, but also, if I remember to say thank you every time someone helps me, or waits on me, or rings me up, I will be spreading my own little version of gratitude and joy. And if, when I’m asked, “do you want the receipt with you, or in the bag”, I say, “with me, and… thanks for asking”, I’ll be spreading a generosity of spirit. And that, most definitely, is a gift worth giving.

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