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Let Children Give

A young fifth grade student knows his teacher well.  Mrs. R calls him a rough tough boy and she shared this story.  Their school gives money and a shopping trip to children who wouldn’t have money and an opportunity to shop.  This little guy asked Mrs. R, “What do you want for Christmas?” She answered,

“For you to work hard!”

            That wasn’t what he had in mind.  “I’m going shopping and I have SO MUCH money and I want to get you something,” he said.  Mrs. R thanked him with a big hug and told him he didn’t need to get her a gift.  “I’m still going to get you lipstick or perfrume (his word) because they’re what you love,” he said.

            Mrs. R, a teacher for twenty years, wears perfume and bright colored lipstick.  And this rough tough guy wants to give her something he knows she’ll like.  Not because he has to, not because his mother told him to take a gift to his teacher, not because his teacher asked for a gift.  Because he wants to.  I hope he finds the brightest red lipstick ever and I know Mrs. R will wear it.  And if he gives the cheapest sweet-smelling perfume, she’ll wear it too, at least a few times. And that rough tough boy will probably work harder when she does.

            Mrs. R’s story took me back to my classroom where elementary age children brought me Christmas gifts for twenty-five years.  I appreciated every gift, but the ones that touched my heart were the ones that children chose.  Like the small ceramic hummingbird that sits in the window over my kitchen sink.  When David’s mother picked him up after school that Christmas party day, she made sure he didn’t hear her as she apologized for such a small gift and said he wouldn’t bring the gift she’d chosen.  David chose the perfect gift.

            My Christmas tree has a small flock of birds: cardinals, a blue jay, doves, partridges.  All gifts from students.   Brooke handed me a beautifully store-wrapped gift and said, “Momma said you had better like these.  They cost a lot of money!”  Inside were two green partridges which hang with other birds at eye level on my Christmas tree where I see them every morning as I sit and drink coffee and enjoy quiet time.

            My sweaters were often decorated with pins, scatter pins of all kinds.  Best teacher.  Santa with rhinestone eyes.  Angels with gold wings.  Gifts that students chose and when I wore them, the givers stood straighter, work harder, smiled more.

            I also remember gifts I really liked, but left the giver uncertain.  Gift certificates that were just a piece of paper.  Banana bread that the giver didn’t like.  A glass pie plate.

            During this Christmas shopping season, let children choose the gifts they give.  Let them know the joy, the excitement of watching someone open what they chose.  Let them smile when someone hugs and says thank you.  Let them give.

Last Minute Gifts!

searchAll I want for Christmas is my Christmas shopping finished! I’m not a shopper so shopping for gifts can be a chore. But I love to give gifts. Don’t like to shop and love to give. How contradictory! That’s why I search for ways to keep shopping at a minimum, and I steal ideas from friends and family and printed articles. Anyone, anyplace.
Subscriptions. Buy a magazine, keep a subscription card that is tucked among its pages, and give the magazine along with a handwritten note that says, “Merry Christmas all year long! You’ll receive an issue every month.” If your brother opens the gifts and says that he already receives this magazine, ask what other one he’d like and be glad you haven’t sent in the subscription card yet. Magazines are available on all topics – something for every boy and girl, man and woman. Or give a newspaper subscription, even if your aunt gets the local paper, pay for the next three months’ issues.
Buy one for everybody. I hope all my Grands like their blankets with their names embroidered on them. One Grand ask for a soft blanket, so all are getting one. If your Uncle John asked for a flashlight, wouldn’t other relatives like one? If sister needs a water bottle, the kind that holds either hot or cold beverages and made of the safest materials, get a water bottle for everybody. Or how about giving all your neighbors and friends a hunk of good cheddar cheese, a box of fancy crackers, and a jar of olives?
Gift cards. Not the plastic kind, the personal kind. In July, four of my Grands gave me handmade birthday cards that read, “I’m taking you out for a treat at _____.” (They each chose a different place.) The time we spent together, just the two of us, licking ice cream cones or munching cupcakes was worth much more than the cost of the treat. And not just grandmothers would like this gift. Grandfathers, aunts, uncles, parents, neighbors, and even children.
How about a gift card for chores? Clean out the kitchen cabinets, paint a room, make home repairs – you know what your parents or children would like done. Put a cleaning cloth or paintbrush or wrench, whatever fits the task, inside a beautiful gift bag and when the gift is opened, determine a time that the chore will be completed.
And most everyone likes a trip or a special event. One of my all-time favorite Christmas gifts was a promise for a ticket to a Ray Charles concert. Husband and I sat center front, three rows back, while Ray Charles and the Nashville Symphony performed on stage.
Make it personal. It’s probably too late to order and receive a cell phone case with the grandchildren’s picture printed on it, but there’s plenty of time to write, “You get to choose your favorite picture for a new phone case!” And wouldn’t a recent bride or a teenager love this gift?
There are very few shopping days left. Surely, on Christmas Day, I’ll have a gift for one and all.

Happy Birthday

I’ve never received so many birthday greetings. Or in so many different ways. More than six months ago, the government sent congratulations. An introductory paragraph stated, “Now that you are approaching …..” I stopped reading. I chose to not be reminded of the number that followed.
Every insurance company that offers Medicare A, B, C, D, and XYZ supplement programs mailed good wishes, or condolences, depending on my attitude the day I opened the mail. And then their representatives called. In their friendliest and most caring voices, each offered to stop by for a short visit, at my convenience, to discuss health care. I coined an official response “I’ve made my decision about health insurance for the rest of my life. It’s signed, sealed, and delivered.” That ended our budding relationships.
Finally, the end of July rolled around, and my birthday, with its looming number, could no longer be ignored. And, to be honest, I like celebrating birthdays, mine and everyone else’s. Thanks to the post office, Mark Zuckerberg, Ray Tomlinson, and Alexander Graham Bell, good wishes arrived. In my mailbox, on Facebook, through email, and over the phone.
A really good friend, mailed a card that read, “I know it’s your birthday, but I’ve forgotten your age!” Bless her heart. Wish I could. A Facebook post that read, “Happy Birthday to a sweet young lady that I had at 4-H camp for many years,” took me back to bunk beds, horseback riding, and jumping off a high dive. And I liked the e-card with the dancing bear that sang, “Each year is just a number. Count the friendships you hold in your heart.”
I got birthday wishes from my Grands. One-year-old Grand, 1300 miles away, giggled and kissed his computer screen. When I said, “Let’s pat a cake,” he clapped his hands. So I sat on my couch at my house, and he sat on his daddy’s lap at his house, and together we patted and rolled and threw tiny imaginary cakes. As we said good-bye, I caught all my Grand’s birthday waves and kisses. Thanks goodness for video chats.
After eating birthday cake at my Grands’ house that’s across town, my seven-year-old Grand announced, “Gran, we have a surprise for you.”
“It’s outside. Don’t come out yet,” his younger sister  said. My Grands ran back and forth from the outside picnic table to inside their house. They rummaged through their school supplies. “Don’t let Gran come outside!” they screamed.
Finally, I was invited to unveil the surprise. Two bath towels covered the picnic table and my present. Garden stepping stones. One made by, or for, each Grand. With handprints, names and ages. And decorated, kid-style, with colorful stones. Treasured gifts! “Look up, Gran! There’s your card.” A blue paper waved from a tree. Four-inch tall green letters had been scribbled from one side of the paper to the other, “Happy Birthday, Gran!” No numbers. No reminder of age. No “Now that you are approaching……” Just a piece of construction paper taped to a tree limb. A keepsake birthday card.