Let’s show some appreciation for the people in our lives because of who they are, not the things they give us
One of the oft-repeated mantras of the holiday season, regardless of what you happen to celebrate, is being thankful for what you have. I find this a little ironic, given the fact that the holidays are also the culturally mandated time of gift-giving between loved ones. There was even a rather pointed discussion in the United States about the fact that several major retailers were beginning Black Friday on Thanksgiving; if that’s not the ultimate slap in the face to the notion of appreciating the things already in your life, I don’t know what is.
For me, one of the greatest pieces of evidence that we have traded thankfulness for consumerism is the fact that a website called “Black Friday Death Count” exists. All this website does is compile stories about injuries and deaths that occur on Black Friday, and number them with a rolling ticker. The sole purpose is to outline the absurd lengths people will go to so they can get their hands on the latest…whatever it is they think their kids and relatives need this year. If the fact that some of them involve being shot or stabbed merely for a parking space doesn’t indicate how far gone thankfulness and gratitude is from the holidays, I don’t know what does.
It is this precise reason that I prefer not to partake in gift giving during the holidays. As a nonreligious person, I have no special attachment to any of the holidays themselves, though I do enjoy being able to see and annoy my entire family for a day. Even though I see them fairly often as it is, it’s difficult to get all of us in one place at the same time because of how many of us there are, our myriad of activities and lifestyles, and the fact that we span four generations. I’m perfectly content to have us all under one roof for a day, without gifts being involved. Add in a few phone calls to family who can’t make it, as well as some of my closest friends, and you’ve got a holiday I’m completely happy with.
In fact, when it comes to giving gifts to people at this time of year, I would much prefer something they made for me. To me, nothing says “I value our relationship” like something handmade. It can be as simple as a letter; an actual, pen-and-paper note is so rare nowadays that the few I’ve received in recent memory have a special place on the wall by my desk. The fact that someone took time out of their schedule to sit down and create something, be it a letter, drawing, song, whatever, specifically for someone else, shows that they really do value that relationship, and that it means enough to represent in something more meaningful than an email or quick text.
Hell, I don’t even think it’s that important that you give somebody a physical object to show your appreciation for them. Some of my best memories with people are the rare occasions that we spent an entire evening together, one-on-one. Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems like somewhat uncommon, at least within the Millennial generation, to spend time with only one other person, and not spending it attached to our phones or trying to find more people to hang out with. It can be as simple as going to your favorite bar or restaurant for an evening. The simple gift of time and company (and perhaps a round of drinks) is more than enough to let someone know that you appreciate them and are glad they’re in your life, regardless of how or why.
The holidays aren’t supposed to be about whether or not you get the new iPhone or gaming console, but the people closest to you. Perhaps the effect of Black Friday and the “shopping season” are a bit overhyped because of their sensationalist nature, but there really is no good reason to end Thanksgiving early to empty your wallet in an attempt to show someone you love them, or satisfy the ironic request for items during the season in which we’re supposed to appreciate what we already have. Instead of buying things for others, we should do things for others. Sometimes, it’s the smallest acts of kindness and appreciation that mean the most, not the things pulled from the shelves of department stores.