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I feel like I’m repeating myself.

The title of this post refers to an opinion column I wrote around this time last year… 

I included slightly less sarcasm this time, but the message remains the same.

 

 

Just the other day I was browsing the Halloween aisles at Walmart, happily rummaging through costumes, decorations and candy. I was enjoying my time searching for tricks and treats, preparing for the coming holiday. Fall is in the air and All Hallows’ Eve is quickly approaching. It is October, after all.

Why then, as I turned the corner, did I find mountains of winter décor and Christmas paraphernalia?

My cheerful mood was immediately shattered. As I need not remind anyone, it’s October. We have not only one major holiday before Christmas, but two. Did we forget about Thanksgiving?

I realize I must sound jaded. The truth is; I enjoy Christmas as much as anyone else. I love the spirit of giving and warmth associated with Christmas, the time spent with family, and all the sights and sounds and smells that make the season joyful. I am troubled however, by the fact that Christmas comes so early these days. For a holiday that only comes once a year, I fear it imposes upon so many of the other months, thus overstaying its welcome.

Christmas is special, but only if we revere it as such. The retail industry shoves Christmas down our throats rather than presenting it in a way which makes us excited for its arrival.

Did I mention it’s October? I think I did, but I feel as if some people are missing the point.

I love Christmas, but I’m going to curb my enthusiasm until December. Trick-or-treat.

 

How to Give a Meaningful Gift

Giving

 

Can you hear the groans? The holidays always cause some stress, especially when it comes to giving gifts. There are plenty of reasons to give, but it can require a lot of effort. We all know someone who’s hard to buy for, hard to satisfy or hard to please. How do you decide what to give?

There are many factors that should be considered when choosing a gift, and your main goal should be to give a gift that is meaningful, unique and memorable.

First, what’s the occasion? Some gifts are more appropriate than others, depending on the event. For example, it would likely be unwise to give someone a pair of Christmas socks for their June birthday (unless the recipient is crazy about Christmas footwear).

Second, who is the gift for? Meaningful gifts should be personal and relevant (usually). For example, you wouldn’t give a new mother a loud set of subwoofers.

Third, what do you know? It’s beneficial to have an established relationship with the recipient and to have some knowledge about their interests (but giving to a stranger is nice, too).

It’s good to have an idea where to start, but the most important part of giving involves knowing the recipient will value the gift. If you use your knowledge to your advantage, you can be confident the recipient will appreciate your gesture.

To gather the knowledge you need and put it to work, there are some guidelines you can follow.

  • Pay attention!

If you take an interest in the person and take time to figure out what he or she enjoys, it will be much easier to decide what kind of gift to give. Pay attention to details about the recipient such as favorite colors, flavors, scents, materials, hobbies and desires. Knowing more about these aspects of the recipient’s life can help you personalize something special and tailor it to his or her liking. Focus on wants but think about needs. The recipient might need one thing but want something else. Sometimes it’s OK to compromise. For example, if your little sister needs a new winter coat but wants a teddy bear, and her favorite colors are pink and purple, you could give her a pink coat with a little purple teddy bear tucked in the pocket. It’s really up to you to be observant and make a connection.

You have to develop ideas from what you’ve learned, so the next step is critical.

  • Brainstorm!

Effective gift-giving does involve some thought. Use what you learned about the recipient and put it all together. Don’t go to the store and hope something brilliant will jump out at you. Instead, have at least an idea brewing before you start shopping. Looking for a gift is much easier when you know what you’re looking for. In addition, perhaps a normal store-bought gift isn’t suitable at all. Sometimes people prefer homemade gifts, so it’s good to consider that possibility, too. Also, decide if the gift should be simple or complex and determine what you need to do to make it happen.

The saying “It’s the thought that counts” applies here, but put it to good use.

  • Action!

Once you’ve got a solid idea (or several), get to work. Allow yourself enough time to devote to the gift so you can focus on making it meaningful. The time you put into a gift can say a lot about you and make the details shine. It’s OK to let the recipient see your hard work, but subtlety isn’t a bad thing either. Most importantly, be creative. Push the limits and exceed your own expectations.

If you’re still stumped, here are some examples you can follow to get you going.

My favorite way to give a meaningful gift is to create a gift basket of assorted items that apply to the recipient’s interests. Sometimes giving several small items that are very valuable to one person is better than giving one item that is fairly valuable to many. It’s fun, too. Gift bags are easy to coordinate and the ways to fill them, display them and give them are endless.

If you have a certain skill, put it to work. If you can crochet, bake, paint, or do anything from your heart, you can create a meaningful gift. I often sculpt roses from clay and paint them to suit the people receiving them. When someone knows you have devoted time and labor to create something especially for them, the gift is all the more valuable.

Sometimes people would rather have an experience than a material gift. Keep this in mind and decide if it’s something you can bring to life. A trip to the zoo or the bowling alley or an afternoon of skydiving might be the way to go.

Not everyone has a big budget, so sometimes it’s difficult to give the ideal gift. Just work with what you have. Giving a meaningful gift doesn’t have to be expensive.

Giving a gift can be just as rewarding as receiving one. It can be very fulfilling to know you have made someone happy with your thoughtfulness.

Now that you’ve got the idea, stop groaning and start giving.

 

This and other great student-written stories can be found at www.rangerpulse.com.

Is Your Calendar Broken?

It’s October. Say it with me. Oc-to-ber.

And what comes before October? Sep-tem-ber.

In which month does Christmas occur? De-cem-ber.

So why is everyone acting as if Santa could be making his rounds at any second?

Early last month, the Walmart I shop at in Northwest Oklahoma began setting up holiday displays. There were and still are at least three or four aisles dedicated to Christmas. This compared to the one, maybe one and a half aisles for Halloween. And where on earth is all the Thanksgiving stuff?

I’m all for being prepared. I like to get an early start on things, especially holidays, so I can make sure everything goes just right.

However, with the way our society has evolved, it seems like maybe stores should just sell Christmas decorations all year long, play those awful and overdone versions of Christmas carols every single day, and give no one an excuse to be “unprepared” for the holidays.

In this case, there is such a thing as excess.

Instead of people valuing that time of year for the sharing, generosity, love and joy it’s supposed to inspire, it now seems to boil down to who has the most and best stuff.

Am I the only one that sees the absurdity in this?

Maybe I’m an old soul. I’m 21 but for some reason I still love giving meaningful and thoughtful gifts, sharing precious food with people I care about, being kind to others, and appreciating all the little things.

Christmas is a wonderful occasion for many reasons, but only when it’s not shoved down every throat in America all year long.

Christmas is only “that special time of year” when we treat it as such.

Ha… This sums up how I was feeling in September.

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