It’s that most wonderful time again when the world is lit up with the lights of the holidays. No matter what you celebrate, it is almost certain there is some form of tradition of gift giving that comes with the holiday. It’s nearly impossible to shut out the advertising that barrages us from all directions about the perfect gifts we must give or get. The pressure of giving the perfect gift can become a psychological burden and I had a co-worker who teetered on the brink of a nervous breakdown each Christmas trying to find what would make her family happy. She was never more downtrodden than knowing what she had worked so hard to match perfectly to the person for a gift, was being returned to the store because it was the wrong size, color or simply didn’t match their tastes. She was also quick to mention the financial burden the holidays brought to her budget.
But what do I really want? My children used to ask me that question when each gift giving time would come near. They got tired and protested at my polite answer of ‘I like anything YOU give me,’ so a few years ago I switched off and began requesting the gift of world peace. After hearing this a few times, my children have stopped asking and we slowly came to an understanding that the gifts I want from them are not ones that can be purchased. I have a feeling that so many people reading this, whether you have a chronic disease like my multiple sclerosis or are healthy, can agree - we want the priceless gifts that can’t be bought with a few dollars.
Expectations are great and can cost quite a bit of money to make it the memorable holiday gift exchange moment we might dream of. We know the saying that Time is Money, and it usually applies to the idea that we should hurry and get our tasks done quickly and not linger. But I would like to turn this idea around and challenge us this season instead of worrying about spending money and accumulating debts for materials gifts that are often meaningless to the recipient, I encourage you to slow down and give the gift of your time, particularly to those of us with chronic disease.
What is more valuable than spending time with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time? Those moments for most of us are priceless. Do you know someone who doesn’t get out of their house much because of a chronic illness? Think creatively of a way to pick them up and go for a quiet meal or even just a drive. If getting them out is impossible, bring lunch to them and enjoy the quiet time to talk. The gift of companionship can be priceless to a person who spends most of their waking hours alone.
Still not sold on this and you really want need to give something that the person can open? Create a gift certificate or coupon for the person you want to gift and list on it the ways you might spend time and help make daily life easier. There isn’t a single person I know who couldn’t use an extra set of hands to do some household chores, run errands or organize a closet. There are many ways that your gift of time can be more meaningful and last longer than buying another trinket that will sit on the shelf and need to be dusted.
Before you spend a lot of money which you don’t really have to spare, talk to the other person about ways spending time with each other could be the best gift of all. As for me, if you ask what do I really want for the holidays? While world peace remains at the top of my list, spending time with my family and friends is a very close second. Happy Holidays to all!
Wishing you well,
Have you ever experienced any of the following financial struggles due to your MS?