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Gifts That Keep Giving

We give gifts during special occasions but giving gifts is not my gift. I can’t think beyond socks and chocolates. Maybe because in our society, we are already overflowing with possessions. Maybe because my father always said, “Don’t spend unnecessary money.” (I think he meant, “Don’t spend money unnecessarily.”)

But as occasions, like Christmas, come here are some suggestions for you.

1. Time
Loneliness is the biggest disease known to mankind.  Mother Teresa called it “the most terrible poverty.” On the other hand, just because someone is alone does not mean they are lonely. Just ask any introvert. Still, your offer of company, someone to go walking with, being willing to give that extra minute can be a wonderful gift.

2. Appreciation
Canadians are polite to a fault. We say “Thank you.” All the time. But appreciation is more than saying thanks. Next time you say thanks, be specific. “Thank you for calling me. I appreciate it.” In some cultures, “showing appreciation” means something more tangible :). But giving a thought to what someone has done and telling them is very meaningful. The key word is “telling”.

3. Affirmation
An affirmation is something that is true and positive. Some of us find it hard to see the positive. That’s why, when you see it, speaking it can be like a cup of cold water to a dry, thirsty soul.

4. A hug/hand shake
Humans are born with a need for touch. Our skin is our largest organ and when we shake hands or someone pats us on the back, our brain produces happy hormones – oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, and decreases the stress hormone, cortisol. So get out there and shake a hand, offer a hug and know that I've always got a hug for you!

5. Acts of kindness
You can be kind to strangers and randomly hold doors open, help a senior with their groceries or let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line. But I think the most meaningful kindness is to the people you live with every day. It's challenging to be kind "All day, every day". But create these good habits - do the dishes, open the door for them, put a love note in their lunch and smile at them. These are small things that make a big difference.

6. Apologies
No one is perfect. We do things that hurt people all the time. Apologizing is free but it’s very costly. It costs you humility, self-awareness and putting others first. A true apology means saying “I’m sorry.”, meaning it and working to change your behaviour.

7. Forgiveness
And because no one is perfect, we need to give the gift of forgiveness. It’s often said, “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Our role model is Jesus. As He was being murdered, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.”   So forgiveness does not need someone to apologize first, although it's easier if someone is sorry. It’s a gift to the offender, but also to yourself.

8. Unconditional Love
This is a very costly gift. It means you expect nothing in return. It does not depend on the circumstances or the other person’s behaviour. It does not come from a place but from a person. God IS love. It does not mean that people who don’t know God can’t love. Rather, He has placed in every person the ability to love. However, our default is to give conditional love. We tend to withhold love if someone disagrees with us or hurts us or doesn't return our love. On the other hand, loving unconditionally doesn't mean we don't place boundaries in our relationships.  Boundaries should be used to protect ourselves and others, not to punish them.

So the next time you need to give a gift, write them a little gift coupon with one of these gifts.

By Lydia Nigh