It’s that time of year again. John Lewis produces a masterpiece of an ad, designed to get as many tears from us as possible. Every large retailer gets their best 3 for 2 signs ready. Chocolate sales skyrocket. Diet book sales overpass them. And everywhere you turn, you get the same message:
Our Lord and Saviour has been born. BUY STUFF!
The #GiftFace ad hit a particular nerve with me – not because I think a certain department store will give me the answer to my troubles, but because it made me realize exactly what the last few Christmases have been for me – exhausting.
If you don’t know what to do this holiday season, if your family already has everything, if you seriously just want to make someone happy but they won’t tell you what shiny bauble they want, here are three suggestions that might work for you this holiday season:
#1 A donation to a charity CHOSEN BY THE PERSON
This is very important. Don’t just donate to any old organization – firstly, not all registered charities are actually charities, just like not all registered churches are actually churches. Ask the person which cause they support – not only will they be sure it’s legit, but you will avoid that super-awkward moment when you donated to a cause they not only not like, but are in direct opposition of.
And yes, I know, it’s not a surprise. But it’s the thought that counts, and believe you me, if they care enough for social justice for you to consider this as an appropriate gift for them, they will be a lot more touched by you making the effort to support something they care for, than, say, a new pair of GHDs. Or a video game they don’t even have the console for.
#2 Take the load off
Got a relative with lots of kids, or someone whom you know struggles getting stuff done over the week? Maybe you live nearby that person. Maybe, after you talked to them about it (again, just being thorough) you can offer them free babysitting/housekeeping visits for, say, three months or however much time you can offer.
Again, this depends on time and availability, and obviously, you need to have the spoons for it, but wouldn’t it be nice to give your aunt Janice a break from the housework for a bit, just until she settles in her new job? Or take care of your friend’s kids once a month so that she can have some time to herself? Ask the person what they need and then see if they like the idea.
#3 Bury the hatchet
Depending on circumstance and spoons, once again, but if you have an estranged friend or a family member whom you feel like you can make up with, now is the time to reach out. Or maybe you cannot help but concern-troll a younger relative, or a friend-of-a-friend, and that has led to some tension.
Ask yourself, in two-three-five years’ time, do I really still want to argue over this? Do you want to have a good relationship with that person? Do you want to move on? Then reach out to them. Don’t come out and say: I won’t say how concerned I am about your liberal arts degree anymore (unless you think the person would be amenable to that) but ask them about how they’re doing, and then listen non-judgementally. Make them feel comfortable. Ask good, neutral questions. Let them talk to you.
And then, if you feel like this is not enough, get them a thoughtful present too. Something you know they care for. Maybe ask them if they have a charity they care for especially. Or they need a favour done.
Or check out the 999+ gift guides for every single personality type there are online. That’s just me.