Thursday, December 15, 2005

Holiday Giving

In today’s timely thought for the day, Eknath Easwaran addresses holiday giving. He says that there is nothing wrong with giving gifts during the holidays, but that if we give them expecting to receive gifts in return, we are not so much giving as we are entering into a “contract.” Furthermore, he suggests that instead of giving expensive gifts that the recipients may not even enjoy all that much, we should give more of ourselves. One way we can do this is to give up smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, or some other unwholesome habit. We shouldn’t do this in the spirit of grim self-denial. We should do it joyfully out of love for our family and friends. Then we are giving the most precious of gifts.

I’m not sure just how this would work or how well it would work. Experts tell us that if we want to overcome an addiction such as smoking or alcoholism, we need to take it “one day at a time” instead of telling ourselves and others that we are giving up our addiction forever. The former breaks up our renunciation into psychologically manageable chunks, whereas the latter presents, for most of us, an impossibly large burden. I suppose that we could tell our loved ones during the holidays that we pledge to do our best to overcome a particular bad habit or addiction a day at a time and ask them to help us along the way.

Or, perhaps, we could simply resolve to ourselves that we’ll try our best to give up the habit or addiction not as a formal holiday gift, but as a year-round aspect of fulfilling one element of Easwaran’s Eight Point Program—putting the welfare of others ahead of our own selfish and destructive pleasures. And then, it’s vital that we faithfully practice the other seven elements of the program since they all complement and reinforce each other.

What can I give in this way to my loved ones this holiday season?


Jess said...

I am with you on this. I don't think it's necessary to give expensive gifts to show those around us we care about them. That is why this year I and my friends have decided to donate most of our Christmas to those who need it more than we do. God knows I have been very blessed where and how I have grown up so I have no need for much of anything. We will only pick one name out of our group to get for them and the rest will be going to various charities. We will also be visitng senior citizens this next week to bring items to them. I personally did it because this has been the very worst year possible for me with the holidays. Initially a self serving reason, but when I got into it I got more out of the things I have done so far than the recipients of my time. It's the first holiday without a man who was my hero and my cheerleader( my dad). You have such a kind spirit Steve. I don't know you in person but you are a person that I would truly enjoy spending time with to get to know better. May the happiness of this season be with you now and always.

Nagarjuna said...

Jess, I applaud you and your friends for your Christmas spirit and for donating your time and gifts to those who will surely appreciate them most. You set a wonderful example for the rest of us. I'm just sorry that you couldn't share the experience with your father. But you honored him with your actions earlier this year, and you continue to honor him with your kindness and actions now. May you and yours have a wonderful holiday season of loving and giving.