This year is the 30th anniversary of one of the most famous holiday films, Jean Shephard's, A Christmas Story. It concerns 9-year old Ralphie, who is hoping for a Daisy Air Rifle. With standard optimism of every child, he heads downstairs on Christmas morning, looking for his gift.
The first package Ralphie opens is bunny pajamas from his aunt, complete with feet. He can't hide his disappointment. Yet we know, when Aunt Maude went shopping, she thought she was buying her nephew something valuable, something Ralphie would wear proudly and happily. And don't we all do the same thing as we venture out to buy gifts for those special people on the holidays?
We wrack our brains thinking about what our dad, or daughter or spouse may like. In today's society, gift cards are among the most popular presents given. Our rationale is, "With a gift card, he can buy something he really wants." Intellectually, that makes sense. But how does a gift card feel to the person on the receiving end? What might they be thinking and feeling?
"I wonder how much time she spent thinking about this gift?"
"Did he give cards to everyone on his list? Am I really that un-special?"
There's nothing wrong with a toy, a sweater, a pair of trendy shoes or a smartphone. But as we grow into adulthood, we also place emphasis on the old adage, "It's the thought that counts."
Contemporary writer Paulo Coelho, in his book Eleven Minutes wrote, "I'm not a body with a soul, I'm a soul that has a visible part called the body."
What if, before selecting a gift this year, you asked yourself, "Is it possible to give something that goes far beyond appearances, something that has the possibility to touch a heart and feed a soul?"
What kind of gift can keep on giving? Soothing music, for one. A recent CNN broadcast interviewed Daniel Levitin, professor at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada, where researchers looked at patients about to undergo surgery. One group was given anti-anxiety drugs and the other listened to music. They measured the stress hormone, cortisol. The results were that the patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs.
But music isn't the only gift that can improve a life. What about meditation? Deepak Chopra is one of the world's top advocates of meditation. In his groundbreaking book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, he wrote, "Hundreds of individual findings show lowered respiration, reduced oxygen consumption, and decreased metabolic rate. In terms of aging, the most significant conclusion is that the hormonal imbalance associated with stress -- and known to speed up the aging process -- is reversed."
MIT Professor and molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn says that meditation is ultimately healing. In a Time magazine article, he talks about how meditation actually thins out the amygdala, a part of the brain that holds fear and anxiety, and subsequently reduces stress.
Don't you have someone in your life you wish would simply "chill out" or slow down? How would you feel if you knew you could affect such a vital change in someone's life?
The season of giving is upon us. We've made our list, and now it's time to decide what to give. A new coat to keep warm? The latest mobile device to keep up? The choices are endless, yet every choice we make can last for a moment in time or for timeless moments. Why not give a gift that can change a life and last a lifetime -- a gift that may bring more peace, more joy and more health into a life? Choose all your gifts wisely. Your loved ones will feel so appreciated that you took the time and cared so much.