Each year at Christmas, I try to read O. Henry’s short story The Gift of the Magi. The classic Christmas story tells of a young couple—Jim and Della—and their desires to give each other a Christmas gift. Struggling to make ends meet, each of the characters wonders how they can afford to a buy a meaningful Christmas gift. To earn money, Della sells her hair and buys Jim a chain for his watch. Unbeknownst to Della, Jim has sold his watch to buy Della a set of accessories for her long hair. When they exchange gifts, they realize that they both have a gift they cannot use. Nevertheless, they recognize that the importance of their gifts was not in their usefulness, but in their ability to convey the love they have for each other.
Each time I read this story, I am reminded of the importance of giving thoughtful Christmas gifts. In an era of mass production and retail madness, it can be easy to get caught up in the frenzy of buying presents. But gift giving shouldn’t be a whirlwind of thoughtless spending on generic items. Instead, the process of buying holiday gifts should include thoughtful consideration of individuals and relationships.
A thoughtful Christmas present can express love and strengthen a relationship by showing commitment beyond the normal gift selection process. Knowing that someone took the time to find a unique Christmas gift, tailored to individual needs and wants can make a person feel cared for and loved. This sense of love provides more emotional benefit than the gift’s actual utility or worth.
Thoughtful gifts provide another equally important benefit. Because thoughtful giving will usually steer the giver away from the mass-produced, widely available consumer products, thoughtful gifts are usually unique gifts. In other words, they have the power to inspire awe in the recipient. Receiving something that is very different and very unexpected makes a gift more exciting and more memorable.
This Christmas, take a lesson from Jim and Della, don’t rush through your holiday shopping as if it’s a chore or a checklist item. Instead, think carefully about the recipients and about your relationship with them. Give them gifts that show they are important and that they are individuals. This season, give holiday gifts that truly convey your love to others!