Just last week I saw Santa in Trader Joe’s. As in my Trader Joe’s in my small town. It almost makes him my Santa.
You’ve probably seen him, too. He’s been in malls, on street corners, in parades. Maybe he’s visited your town, too. Your Santa.
But, how fun it was to see him shopping. With a cart. And – in teen speak – like, everything. He wasn’t in his usual Santa sitting position, greeting and waving. I am sure he was the real deal. I mean the real Santa would need to shop, right? So it’s sort of like seeing your teacher (or your kid’s teacher) or your dentist in the supermarket.
Santa just shopped and ho-ho-ho-ed and talked to everyone while pushing his cart. Kids stopped him. Heck, even adults politely asked if he could answer questions – and oddly, they were real questions. Thankfully, Santa is a respected source. No one taunted him. How cool it was to watch this. How cool he was to offer his jolly self to others. And to give such thoughtful replies.
Talk about giving.
We’ve just exited Thanksgiving here in the United States and we enter a season of holidays that speak to the beauty of what is often referred to as the Season of Giving. And all the while this time of year also vies for major receiving as its end goal. This is entirely confusing for kids, not to mention the adults who are out there shopping with predetermined limits that few can actually stick to.
Meanwhile, many kids are wondering: which is their holiday? And why can’t they have all of them? They all seem so good and kinda cool. And then can they just get everything – something for every holiday?
And globally, there are many, many more holidays that are still not seen here – celebrated more privately and not (thankfully) commercialized. Those who observe those holidays might feel lucky that the grand marketing machines haven’t been paying much attention.
I have learned to accept that people will say “Merry Christmas” with the translation of “Happy Whatever Holiday You Celebrate”. I understand that their intention is to wish good will and joy and that their greeting is not in any way a wish or an act of religious conversion.
I understand that this season is a season where many of us try to find ways to give – even as our children expect to receive. And as parents, we grapple with the balance of how much to give and what that giving should actually be – not just look like – but be.
As adults, we struggle to keep up with our kids’ requests, with our neighbors’ decorations, with the commercials of happy families, and with the holiday letters and Facebook posts that leave us bruised as we compare and contrast our realities to the “truths” presented. And we are fearful of letting our kids down, of not giving them enough. And then, in the next breath, what if we are giving too much?
And we wrestle with this because we KNOW with certainty that the best gifts of all are not necessarily boxed and wrapped.
The best gifts involve our time, our intention, as much as our attention. Sure, kids want something they can point to, show off to others. But what if we can help them to point at us? What if we could be their BEST gift just as our kids are (almost?!) always our BEST gifts – every day.
It is a thought as you purchase new technology for them and then decide on how you want to set the ground rules for its use and then stick to those rules or that contract that you both sign. (For help on this, I refer you to a most excellent contract drafted by Avron Welgemoed who expects you to revise and personalize it.)
It is a thought as you might use this time of year as the excuse to restructure, redesign, or simply write how you’d like tech usage to change in the new year.
It is a thought as you take the time to talk. To be in the moments. To wrap yourself up and put your tech on silent mode (or better yet, turn it off!). To challenge your family to get off of social media (even for a little while). To stop posting pics and instead choose to create memories for your own home that are private, personal, and yours alone because you can print them and snail mail them in frames (remember those!?!) to only people you truly know and care about. At the risk of lecturing: no company should own your family and your time together. Not ever.
My young adults? They still believe in Santa because they believe in me. They believe in the other holidays that we observe and the ones that we have come to know from their travels and learning about other cultures and religions. So very many traditions. They believe in giving and yes, of course, they like receiving.
Don’t get me wrong. We wrap presents. But we are looking more at each other and asking “what of myself can I give to you?” It’s way cool. This giving. This receiving.
Imagine if we all – the world around – redefined giving. If it involved more intention. More attention. More time. Fewer dollars. Fewer worries about whether we were getting the right gizmo. More selves.
Red bow optional.
(Oh, and that big empty refrigerator box is a bonus. Because, let’s face it, we all love those boxes and the forts that we can make together so that we can fight the pirates in between reading books with flashlights. Now, there is a gift – for every age!)
And to my Santa: Thank you for giving in such a subtle and beautiful way. I hope you got all the things on your (shopping) list!