I have to share with you – I recently got one of the best gifts I’ve gotten in a long time. One of my coworkers came into my office and shared that her son had a gift for me. It was a bit of a process figuring it out because he wasn’t even entirely sure of my name. He just knew it was for “that really tall guy in your office.” Well, that pretty well narrows it down to me. He was apparently very serious and very convinced that that gift was for me and only me.
So after the story and all of the buildup, she finally revealed what the precious gift was. With my eyes undoubtedly gleaming in anticipation and my hands twitching to be holding that which was so important, she pulled out one single maple leaf.
It hadn’t turned to any spectacular fall color yet. It was a little dry. It even had some tears and holes in it. It was by no means in pristine condition. Were it anything more of a ‘normal’ gift, it would have been a re-gifted well-used item.
And I LOVED IT!
Yes, this really is a picture of that very leaf I was given as a gift. I was so struck that I had to take a picture of it right away. In fact, that very leaf is still sitting in my office.
But it’s just a leaf, right? Why the big deal? After all, we have all kinds of maple trees in the area and in a few more weeks we will all be begging someone to come take them off of our yards.
Well, it’s not really about the leaf. What struck me most is that this 4-year old little boy thought of me enough to make sure I got his leaf. Even if he wasn’t sure of my name. Whatever it was, it was for ME.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have been more than blessed with some pretty significant gifts, and I very much appreciate those too. But more than the item, it is the sentiment that moves me.
So what’s my point? Good question.
Nearly all of us give gifts of some sort. We give gifts for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, weddings, baby showers, other major life events, and some times ‘just because’. We even give gifts at funerals! Maybe not the ‘normal’ gift, but there are flowers, plants, and memorials often given. And these are all fine and dandy.
But what if you can’t afford to give a ‘normal’ gift? Or what if they already have everything and more and you can’t even come up with something to give them? (Thank you American consumerism!)
Perhaps your recipient would be as touched as me by just a leaf. Not because a leaf is anything spectacular, but because of the personal thought behind it. While it may not be shaped like mine, green, or even from a plant, what figurative leaf can your share with those you love?
In a recent class, we were talking about budgeting and the fact that Christmas is coming. Yes, it’s only August but it’s already a good time to start thinking about that Christmas budget. So I asked what people would be spending.
I had one participant in the class quite proud of the fact that she would be spending nothing on gifts for her kids at Christmas. In her own words, she explained, “I by stuff for them all year long. If they need it I buy it. They don’t need more stuff. Christmas is about being together. So I make a lot of food and we spend time together. That’s what Christmas is about.”
I’m certainly not going to get away with skipping the Christmas gifts this year. Nor would I want to. That’s just part of our tradition. But I do appreciate and even find myself somewhat challenged by her perspective. Amidst all of the gift giving, are we forgetting about the sentiment (value) of the relationships that we have with our loved ones?
If it works in your budget and it is a tradition you enjoy, then by all means enjoy giving gifts to others. If you can’t afford the stuff, that’s ok. I think you have something far more valuable to give to people – yourself. Your time. Your affection. Your recognition. Your effort.
There are many, many leaves on that tree!
Whether you choose to spend it on gifts or not, if this has inspired some awareness of financial challenges you may have, there is help. The counselors at the Center for Financial Resources would love to help you make sure you can accomplish those priorities you have for yourself and your family. We don’t force. We don’t guilt trip. We listen and help you create a plan to honor your priorities.
You can call us at 605-330-2700 or go online to schedule an appointment with us. We have seen about everything, so don’t feel like your situation is hopeless. Just make the appointment.
More important, find your leaf to share.
written by Breck Miller