Ten Gift Ideas for Spiritual Folks
I was asked to write about 10 Great Holiday Gifts for Spiritual People. Then I had to figure out who, exactly, was that spiritual person. I decided that was someone who would value content over form, meaning over monetary value. Some of the holiday gifts I suggest are explicitly Christian in nature, but most are not. That is because spirituality at the holidays is not limited to observing Christians. When the holidays are doing their magic, there is a big and wonderful spirit that settles in. We all have felt it at least once in our lives – a spirit of giving and human connectedness that emerges full-blown from the heart. It is in the hope of sparking and spreading that spirit that I suggest the following…..
1. The gift of charity – This is the obvious one. But being obvious does not mean it isn’t a splendid idea. Donate in your friend’s name. Choose a charity that you know is dear to her or him. Habitat for Humanity as we all know by now, builds homes for people in need The Heifer Projectgives animals to people all around the world to promote sustainable advances in their lives. Buy a flock of geese, a hive of bees, a pig, llama, heifer, or a grove of trees in your friend’s name. The Grameen Project in Bangladesh gives microloans to women and men from the lowest levels of poverty in order to help them self-employ their way up. Amnesty International is a strong voice against torture and political imprisonment. The Southern Poverty Law Center is in the thick of the fight against hate crimes with education and legal action. There are a jillion charities that you can select for a donation. These can even be used as business gifts. I am a consultant and buy my largest clients a gift each year. One year I gave donated llamas from Heifer International. Both men were thrilled – neither needed another fancy pen set.
2. Mommies: Speaking of charity – this is a great time of year to sit with your children and your spouse to decide what charities the family will target for this year. A friend of mine does this with her sons each year. She is a single Mom, and resources are tight. So she saves all the appeals she gets each year, and right around Christmas they discuss each one and decide which will get their family’s attention for the next year. It is a great lesson-in-giving-and-responsibility, and establishes giving as a family priority.
3. Reallocate your gift giving dollars. Let’s say you and your friend would normally spend $25 each on each other for Christmas. That gives you a pool of $50. Here are some fun things to do with it.
a. Decide who you know who is needy and will receive it as an anonymous gift. Put it in cash and leave it for the person to discover. Never ever ever ever tell anyone that you have done this. Let it be a secret that you share. The person getting the gift must never know or guess who sent it.
b. Go together to a thrift store and buy $50 worth of warm clothing. Combine it with good cast-offs from your own homes. Go together to a woman’s shelter and donate the clothes. I did this once; and when I told the thrift shop woman at St Vincent de Paul what we were doing, she was so happy that she filled up my car to the brim with warm coats for only 50 dollars.
c. Shop for 50 dollars worth of food for a food pantry and volunteer there for a day with your friend.
4. Get off the gift grid. Tell your friend that you love her/him and that neither of you needs to prove it with a gift at Christmas. I once said this to a number of my friends, all of whom agreed. , “We know we love each other. I would like our gift to be removal from the Holiday Stress List. Let’s remember each other’s birthdays, but let’s skip the material gift at Christmas.”
5. Scale down – decide to exchange a Christmas ornament a year as your holiday gift. I do this with one friend, and it is a very sweet thing to look at a tree that is covered with memories of years of our friendship.
6. Building in the Christmas story for children with advent gifts:
a. Advent calendars are fun! They come in every permutation, from Santa to Nativity – teddy bears and church scenes. There are permanent wooden ones and much less expensive paper ones. This is a great way to focus the days before the holiday, and if you use an explicitly nativity-based one, a fun way to tell the Biblical story day by day, as there is a treat behind each day’s window.
b. Setting up the Nativity set together is also something to build in to the year’s events. Set the 3 kings across the room, and move them close each day until they arrive on January 6th. As a child I even had my own tiny plastic set in my room that I would set up each year. Nativity sets vary in price as well, and can be bought by any budget.
7. Inspirational reading: Buy something you KNOW your friend will love. Or, this is a time to sample some exotic spiritual writing that you may not have known. This is a lovely time for the poetry of Rumi, the 12th century Persian mystic:
Even if you don't know what you want,
buy something, to be part of the exchanging flow.
Start a huge, foolish project,
It makes absolutely no difference
what people think of you.
Or taste the mystic poetry of Rabindranath Tagore translated from Bengali after his death in 1941.
When my love comes and sits by my side,
when my body trembles and my eyelids droop,
the night darkens, the winds blow out the lamp,
and the clouds draw veils over the stars.
Or, anything by or about St Teresa of Avila, the 16th century nun, visionary and mystic.
There are any number of writers more contemporary in nature that discuss spiritual issues, but you know those folks, right? Ram Dass, Thich Nhat Hanh, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra.to name only a very few. Books, DVDs, CDs, and tickets to seminars are all great gifts.
8. Give the gift of your loving service. Babysit for a night of your friend’s choosing. Give an IOU for a dinner brought to and served at your friend’s house on a night of his/her choice. Agree to clean her house for one day. Do the laundry for a week. Take the kids for a weekend. Give the garden a thorough weeding. Give an IOU to help paint a room of choice. IOU washing for the dog and cat. Think up something he/she needs or would love having done – and step up to it.
9. Give the gift of shared time to nourish the friendship: Buy a kite and attach a note saying a spring picnic comes with it. Time to be alone as friends. Or buy binoculars and include an IOU for bird watching. Buy a fishing pole and IOU the fishing day – you don’t ever have to bait the hook. Just sit and enjoy. Enjoy the gift of friendship in nature in some meaningful and quiet way together.
10. With whatever gift you select, take the time to write a heartfelt note about what that person means to you. If it is someone who may be having a hard time at the holidays, that very note could make all the difference in the world.