The epidemic of December isn’t influenza. (That is more likely to come after the holidays when stressed and sleep deprived families and friends gather in small places to share appetizers, meals and – through the synergy of double dipping and poor hand hygiene – germs.)
The real epidemic is the frenzy of giving and getting. We are all subject to the pressure to buy, bake or craft the perfect present for the people in our lives.
Some of the purest hearts give in the spirit of appreciation. Remembering people who have given us support and those we may take for granted throughout the year, a gift can be a sincere and heartfelt thank you.
Even without bows, ribbons or wrapping paper, virtually every gift comes with strings. These are the expectations tied up in the giving.
Will this present be appreciated . . . or re-gifted?
Am I giving too much . . . or too little?
Will my child be overjoyed on Christmas morning?
In the giving of this present, am I really thinking about the other person’s happiness . . . or my own?
What am I going to get?
Still looking for that perfect gift . . . for your self?
Admit it. You’re human.
You’ve seen the flyers and walked through the malls, and along with the items just right for someone special, you’ve seen things just right for your self.
Your spoken or unspoken wish list is a blueprint for disappointment. There’s a good chance you won’t get everything you want. Some people accept this . . . and buy what they want for themselves. Others can defer their gratification just until Boxing Day.
If you’re older – and a little wiser, you’ve recognized the seasonal cycle of craving and grasping and disappointment. It’s like dim sum. You’re momentarily satisfied (and sleepy) but it doesn’t last, and you’ll soon be hungry again.
So how can we get through another holiday season with less stress and disappointment? We can begin by recognizing and abandoning our expectations – and strive to give in a different way.
Pure and simple giving grows from love, but not the love of craving, grasping and controlling and not the near enemy of love, infatuation. It is unconditional love: brotherly and sisterly love, agape; in Buddhism, metta or lovingkindness; good will.
Unlike material things and money itself, there isn’t a finite supply of love. It is not something we can keep for ourselves; we benefit most in giving.
Whether we realize it or not, we are each a part of the love cycle. Like water that takes on many forms and is shared by all creation, the love in our lives comes in a myriad of forms. We give and receive love in big and small ways with friends, family, teachers and others who enter and leave the stories of our lives, and being human, we love imperfectly.
Let us appreciate the love that we have received, accept that love as it is (as imperfect as any human is) and with hope and aspiration, give that love forward and out . . . without expectation.
Give what is needed and to those who have a need. Give for the happiness of another. Give as an act of caring. Give as an expression of love.