Tuesday, 21 December 2010
The Spirit of Giving - 21st Window
The other day there was a news item about people getting into debt to buy Christmas presents, particularly people borrowing from loan sharks and finding that they have somehow committed themselves to repaying vast amounts of interest, a £100 loan turning into a £1000 debt.
One mother was actually shown saying: "the kids want their presents as much as other kids do, I don't want them to go without just because I don't have the money". It is sad, of course, and I can understand the mother's feelings but I can't understand her acting on them. I can't understand the logic. I've been very hard up during some periods in my life; my attitude was and is, 'if I don't have the money for it, it doesn't get bought'. I don't think I'm mean, just sensible.
Since then I've been thinking what presents mean to me.
I wish giving nowadays didn't have to be on such a noisy, spectacular scale. People my age tend to go on a bit about the 'good old days', how we were satisfied with a cardboard box and a dustbin lid and a quarter share of a mince pie; perhaps we weren't, not really, but I think we were more modest in our requests.
In our family presents have always been modest. When my father, who was a very kind man, was asked what he wanted for Christmas (or his birthday), he invariably said : "don't make a fuss, I already have everything I want. It would be nice to receive a small token of appreciation, just some little thing to show you care, but really, don't make a fuss". In other words "It's the thought that counts".
We made fun of him, this little speech was so predictable, we mouthed the words while he was uttering them. He usually ended up with a box of cigars, a bottle, something sensible to wear, like a cardigan.
I enjoy presents, both giving and receiving, but they have to be well-chosen and thoughtful. The best present I ever had as a child was a pile of books, which included every single book I'd asked for that year. I was so proud, I told everybody, whether they'd asked me or not, what I'd got for Christmas. With my grandchildren books would just be a stocking filler.
A present has to mean something, it has to be a sign of love, appreciation, goodwill; dare I say, it has to come from the heart. A smile, a kind word, a helping hand can be presents. The worst giver is the calculated giver, the one who 'throws a sausage to gain a chop", as they say where I come from. That person may be good at adding up his sums but has no idea of giving.