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Sometimes I ponder which habits are cultural or demographic and which are specific to a family or other small community. One of these habits that I’ve considered is that of giving gifts. Some of the families I’ve observed give gifts for reasons and no reasons. Others rarely do.

In many instances, the process of giving gifts is directly associated with financial status. My guess is that my childhood was populated with very few gifts due to a rather modest lifestyle. As I look back on those items that I wanted in elementary and high school, I didn’t receive most of them with the response, “You don’t need that.” Now I believe that my mom’s extraordinary medical bills made some of those items unattainable.

In many homes, presents are secured regardless of social status or income. Especially at Christmas time, we see stories of young people who have saved all year from paper routes (do people still deliver papers?), lemonade stands, babysitting or saving items for redemption. They proudly take their collections to a local vendor in order to secure a gift for Mom or Dad.

We also see stories of various charitable people who provide for others so that the recipients are able to enjoy holiday festivities with some sort of treasure. Happily, we have places where we can donate shoes, toys, clothing or other items for the sake of those who are disadvantaged.

Speaking as one who received few presents as a child and many as an adult, I have become a strong proponent of gift-giving. It makes me happier than anything else I can do to send things to my children and grandchildren – so much so that I feel guilty that I may enjoy the process more than they will. So far, that hasn’t happened – my recipients are clearly very grateful.

And so if there is ever a doubt in your mind as to whether or not to buy something for someone else – do it. We don’t know if they can afford to buy what you do and if they would if they could. There are so few opportunities in any one life to present good feelings and kindness through a parcel that it defies the imagination why that parcel would remain unpurchased. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Sometimes, a poem or sentimental item can make a huge difference.

You can make a life happy through a small effort. The gift you select can change the moment, day or overall life of someone else and it only requires a small speck of time. Shalom.

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