Patrons often ask us if we know of books that might make good gifts. To someone who loves to read a book is a precious gift. The Christmas season is said to be a time of giving and for most of us giving means picking out and buying presents. It’s a religious holiday, but usually our time in church pales compared to the time we spend in stores. It’s the season of good will, but it’s also the most stressful time of the year. Finding the right gift for someone at the right price can stress a person out. Christmas often means spending money you don’t have on gifts you can’t afford. A good number of Americans come out of the Christmas season feeling miserable over being deeper in debt and traumatized by holiday stress. A store Santa walked past me once and said, “Don’t frown it’s only money.” I feel peace at Christmas in Church, listening to Christmas music, and watching Christmas cartoons. I just love that Grinch.
It can be hard to remember the meaning of Christmas when our focus is on the traditions of decoration and gift giving. Some people base how much they spend on how much they love someone. This is where we often spend more than we can afford. How can a parent not buy the game or toy their child is dreaming about? I remember my sister Tracy wanting a Nintendo when she was twelve. My parents could not afford one and though she acted like she was happy with what she got I know she later cried in disappointment. It’s a sad memory to this day. Over spending to show love can tear a person apart. Some people overspend as a way to express a love they feel, but can’t say or express verbally or physically. I knew a man who longed to tell his father how he felt about him. He tried impressing his Dad with expensive gifts at Christmas and on his birthday. He realized that gifts would never communicate what was in his heart so he finally just sat down and wrote his father a letter. He felt time was running out and that writing a letter was better than nothing. He wrote out all that he wanted on paper and mailed it to him. His father later said it was the most important letter he had ever received.
We often get stressed trying to buy the perfect gift. No matter what I and my sisters get my father he never shows much emotion. He always says he doesn’t need anything and not to waste our money on him. We end up struggling each year to find the gift that will make him happy. Just spending a lot of money isn’t enough. Most of us want to give a gift that fits the person we are buying for and to show how much thought we put into the selection. Buying a gift that someone you know might actually like can involve hours of going through sales papers or stores hoping to hit on the right gift idea. It’s the person giving the gift and not the gift itself that most people care about though. Gifts can convey more about income than they do the giver’s feelings. It really is the thoughts and feelings of the giver that counts.
Even receiving gifts can cause people stress at Christmas. My Dad worries about his children spending money on him that they might need. The problem is that at his age he really doesn’t want or need that much materially. For other people it’s a self-esteem issue. They don’t feel they are worthy of receiving gifts so they tell people not to buy them anything and act annoyed or embarrassed when they do receive a gift. Some people can’t even accept a compliment let alone a gift. For years I attended a group meeting at church on Wednesday nights. One of those attending was my friend George. Whenever someone would pay him a compliment he would ignore it or else make a remark like, ‘I love it when you lie.” One night another group member named Jencee, who was a close friend to George, brought him up short. She said, “George you don’t have to get embarrassed or make a smart remark. All you have to do is just say, ‘Thank you.” I know it’s hard, but all you have to say is, ‘Thank you.” A couple of years later I heard George give the same lecture to another group member while mentioning that he himself had to be “taught.” Merry Christmas everyone.
Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article was published in the Statesville Record and Landmark in December 2014