The Gift of Receiving

Dec. 30, 2020 – It has been an exciting season of holiday celebrations with my two and four year old. This year was different in many ways, but my kiddos were nevertheless enthusiastic about our Christmas traditions.  The days leading up to the 25th were full of wrapping paper and Christmas music and family visits and surprise deliveries. Once Oliver (age 4) caught on to the pattern of receiving gifts at final playdates for the season and people we wouldn’t see until after Christmas, he was hooked. So, naturally, when a family member came to visit a week before Christmas, he asked me, “will she bring me a present?”

I felt shame. Instant shame, like I was failing to teach him the greater themes we were celebrating this December – giving, acts of service, time together, a beautiful change in season, a slowing down, a turning inward. I gently explained that no, we wouldn’t be exchanging gifts with this visitor, and he was disappointed. This is exactly what I wanted to avoid, I thought, this sense from our kids that Christmas is about getting stuff.

As the days trickled by, I received some gifts of my own – from my parents, from my friends, from family. I felt the warmth of being thought of. On Christmas Day, home in our pajamas, just my husband and the kiddos, we heard a knock on our door. On the other side, our neighbor – giving us a tin of cookies. “Wow, thank you so much,” I peeked my head out to express my gratitude. “Merry Christmas.” I felt bad – I had wanted to share cookies with her! – but here we were receiving. 

But, was bad how I should feel? Could I let that go and just – receive the gift?

What a year we’ve all had. How often I wanted to be wrapped up in warmth and love and certainty. And here I was – receiving. In the form of cookies and presents and texts and and cards in the mail and knocks on the door. I crave to keep it equal – to not receive more than I give – but maybe it’s not an equation, maybe it’s an energy I can let flow through me. Receive the gifts with open arms, and that energy will pass through me in the form of giving throughout next year.

And I thought of my dear Oliver, and his innocent question about receiving another gift. It does feel good to receive – his inquiry reminded me of that. Instead of shutting down the want for presents, perhaps I’d rather teach my children how to receive – openly, lovingly, eagerly, and with gratitude.