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Christmas ‘ a perfect time to give

‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
‘Jo, you are so right.’
That opening line of ‘Little Women’ stunned me when I read it for the first time at probably the age of 10 or 11. I just had to read on and see what could cause such a calamitous situation. The American Civil War was going on, and Jo with her three sisters were members of a family who would assess the idea of splurgy gift giving as inappropriate in times of war.
Uh … is that hitting a little close to home? It should be noted that many an editorial ‘ I am thinking of Bob Herbert’s recent one in The New York Times ‘ have touched on this very subject in 2006. How can Americans blithely saunter or run into Best Buy and slap down big bucks for flat-screen TVs while American soldiers and Iraqi citizens are killed right and left? It is gross. No question.
But I am confused about gift giving at Christmas. I love getting gifts, and I relish picking out the best gift I can for someone I care about. Although the idea of sacrificing gift giving might seem on the surface to be a noble and timely thing to do, I think showing love and regard for those you care about can only be a positive action.
Therefore, I am thinking that our own gift giving can be an effective fight against all the misery and mayhem that exists out there on the large scale. War. AIDS. Starvation. You name it. It is all about your intentions when giving the gift.
In ‘Little Women,’ the four sisters lament their plight and daydream about what they want with their only dollar. After some self examination, they arrive at a much more loving conclusion and decide to spend their precious money on their loving mother who is a tireless worker for the poor and downtrodden. Their intentions are purely grown from love and a desire to please. They want to make someone happy.
At the risk of being accused of unrealistic idealism, I think that all the small actions that we take on our own level of day-to-day existence can accumulate in unseen ways to affect actions that are distant and seemingly out of our reach.
Surprising my son or daughter with a thoughtful gift may seem unconnected to the war in Iraq, but I am not sure I believe that anymore. If my intentions were only to make them happy, then I am adding to the ocean of loving actions that will hopefully overwhelm the negative and ugly forces that exist in the world.
The tough part is being conscious of your actions and examining why you are doing what you are doing. Giving a gift can be and often is selfish. Who is it that really wants that flat-screen TV?
Finally, there is the thought that there are all kinds of gifts. Not just the ones you can hold in your hand. The four sisters of ‘Little Women’ also end up giving away as a gift their unusually splendid breakfast. An immigrant family is made absolutely joyous with the surprise of hot food and a good fire brought by the girls and their mother. The feeling of self-satisfaction and undefined joy of seeing your actions affect another person so profoundly is a gift to be sure.
Gifts are good, and Christmas is a good time to give them. Have a joyous and happy time with all your giving and receiving on this holiday.