Give more than a gift


Kathie Rotz

In years past, have you enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Black Friday shopping? Getting up at 4 a.m. just to stand outside in the cold, dark morning, waiting for the store’s doors to open?

Or, in recent years, have you enjoyed Thanksgiving Thursday shopping? Enjoying your Thanksgiving meal in the early afternoon and get your shopping done before midnight?

Or, do you avoid all the chaos and shop online?

Regardless of your preferences, I have a feeling that 2020 shopping will be much different than any previous year.

My goal this year with any gift that I give is the same as the rest of 2020’s theme: Not normal and different. I have time to put thought into the gifts that I give. This year, I want to give gifts that connect with the receiver.

This approach is stressful, as I worry that I will not think of something thoughtful enough. With shipping delays and inventory challenges, I need to plan, create my lists and begin shopping now.

Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Do the thing, and you shall have the power.” This never fails me. I have learned to trust my mind that with focused intention the answers will come.

Two years ago, I did a lot of genealogy research. While I was digging into my family’s history, I was remembering many of the items in my home that are from these family members. I remember thinking, “Wouldn’t it be neat, some year for Christmas, to give the kids these items with the family stories?” My next thought was, “Why not now?”

Within two months, with my mom and dad’s help, I was able to gather gifts representing each family member from four generations. That holiday our family enjoyed a “Heritage Christmas.” We learned and shared and reminisced about people in our family’s history who have created us. We shared stories about the amazing people in our past and our present. We embraced our heritage. We embraced ourselves.

This Christmas event began with a wordle image of all the surnames in our lineage. Then, gifts were given starting with the great-great-grandparents through to my kids’ parents (that is me). Each gift was accompanied by a note that defined who this historical family member was to my children. The note also described the elder’s career and hobbies.

Gifts included:

A hand cross-stitched pillowcase and ornament from the early 1900s from great-great-grandma Ida.A collector bowl from great-great-grandpa Albert.Recipes from great-grandma Eldora in her handwriting.Handmade wood carvings from great-grandpa Don. (Great-grandpa passed away two years prior, so we all remember him well. The tears flowed when these gifts were opened.)A Care Bear or Cabbage Patch doll from great-grandma Mary. (She was the grandma who always gave the popular toy of the season.)A favorite movie from grandpa Frank.A collector M&M dispenser from Memaw Marie.

Then came gifts from us who are living: A birdhouse from Grandpa, crocheted washcloths from Grandma, a sports jersey from Dad, a cooking utensil from Mom.

We shared lots of memories, laughs and tears. My children never knew many of these family members. I barely remember them. But they all came to life that Christmas evening. We embraced our heritage and allowed the stories to continue to live.

When I first began planning this unique gift, I had no idea how it would be received. I did not expect the tears or the desire to continue telling stories. I did not expect my mom to surprise me with some treasured, antique gifts. The night was so much more than the presents. It was a magical evening of family.

Christmas 2020 is quickly approaching, and I am pondering how to be thoughtful this year. I am feeling anxious and concerned that I am running out of time.

Maybe I will give the gift of growth by choosing a personal development book for each family member. We could create an experience by planning a family Mastermind to challenge our thinking by reading and discussing the book together.

Speaking of experiences, I could give a different gift of learning that could continue throughout all of 2021. Experts are teaching and consulting online. Maybe my family would enjoy music lessons or learning a new language. Or, I could be like Grandma Mary and choose whatever popular game system or piece of clothing that is on the kids’ lists.

Then again, maybe I will not tell you here what my creative ideas are, as I will give away the surprise. Regardless, I am choosing to follow Napoleon Hill’s wisdom: “First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”

Give more than a gift this year. Give a laugh, a tear, a memory.

Kathie Rotz is a leadership consultant and John Maxwell Certified Speaker, Trainer and Coach with Unity Consulting in Dubuque.

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