12/20/2012 05:49 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2013

Give the Gift of Memory

This year, give a gift that literally lasts forever and doesn't cost a dime!

'Tis the season when we are reminded every time we open the paper, turn on the television or visit our email that it is our personal responsibility to revive the economy by shopping till we drop. Don't get us wrong, we like to shop as much as the next guy, but there comes a point in one's life where "things" just don't matter that much. That plastic doll from China you just had to get for your daughter sits broken or forgotten in just a few days. The latest edition of a video game is discarded as soon as another one is issued, or that trendiest art candy bag gets abandoned when the new design previews after the first of the year. And what parent hasn't experienced this: spending hundreds of dollars on toys only to find your children building forts out of the boxes they opened!

We would like to suggest a few gifts that you can give that last through the generations and require only time and motivation.

  • Give the simple gift of reading. Yes, we know this is a bit corny, but honestly, if you have a child or a younger brother or sister, take the time to read them a story, or tell them a tale. Take them to the public library and sign them up for a library card. We know that reading and early literacy programs make a lasting impression on our children and set them up for success.
  • If you are a student returning home for the holidays, sit down with your parents and go through the boxes of photos that most families have from previous generations. Don't wait until it is too late. How many of us wish we had only asked our parents -- "Who are these people and what relation do they have to me? How am I connected?"
  • Scan those photos and secure them. Think about all the images and personal documents lost during Hurricane Sandy. When you see people interviewed after epic tragedies like Sandy or Katrina, they never say, "I'm so sad because I lost my flat screen TV!" No, they are devastated because they lost their only photos of a mother, father or grandparents.
  • Write a short narrative about your first semester at college, or about an event that impacted you deeply. Think about building a personal archive. Many schools require electronic portfolios of your best work -- consider creating an electronic narrative of who you are as an individual.

So if battling the Christmas crowds at the local mall holds no appeal for you, and if Internet shopping seems so impersonal, then consider the gift of literacy, the gift of reading or the gift of memory.