Husband & Wife Articles

The Gift of Self

The best gifts need not take a lot of money

by Patrice E. Athanasidy

Some of my earliest memories of the Christmas season were of my parents buying toys for children we didn’t know. I also remember being handed change to throw into the Salvation Army pot as a friendly person rang a bell outside the stores.

Patrice and William Athanasidy pose with their three children.

My parents made giving a part of our family life. They did not make a big thing about it, but they did make sure that we understood why we were throwing money in the pot or buying toys for children we didn’t know. I liked the idea that someone would be happy on Christmas morning because of us.

My husband, Bill, and I started one of our giving traditions even before our eldest child was born. We lost our first baby in the third trimester. In December of that year, it still felt pretty empty at our house. We both decided we needed to do something positive. That year we bought a new coat for a newborn and donated it in Magdalene Elizabeth’s memory. Most years we have bought a coat for a child who would be the age Magdalene would be that year..

This year we are doing several gifts for children in our area. Our threesome of Charlotte, Peter and Kit thoughtfully plucked tags from the Giving Tree at church. For the past couple of years, Charlotte generously has asked to buy a Giving Tree gift with her own allowance. This year Peter and Kit wanted to join in, but many of the Giving Tree tags were for expensive items, so Charlotte suggested that we donate a gently used coat this year instead of a new one and use the leftover funds to help her younger siblings pay for the Giving Tree toys.

Charlotte especially wanted to help her brother Peter, who  is on the autistic spectrum, because she saw how excited he was when he chose his tag and found one of his favorite toys written on it. The fact that he was so willing to give a gift that he wanted for himself was truly a blessing for all of us

So this week we are trying on all our coats and deciding which ones can go to a coat drive in the area. The children and I are off to the toy store to purchase the gifts printed on their tags and probably put some money in the pot outside the store. We are aware that these gifts will truly make people happy on Christmas morning.

I, too, have learned the lesson of giving each gift with love this season. The idea is to make the receiver happy. That does not always take a great deal of money. Looking back on my childhood, I remember a Christmas that I made silver bells for my family members with cups and aluminum foil and string.

I was thrilled to give those bells to the people I loved and even more thrilled when I saw the bells hanging in a place of honor each Christmas. My godmother still hung the bells long after I stopped making Christmas presents, but each time I saw them I realized that they may have been one of the best presents I ever gave or she ever received – because the gift gave joy to both of us.

Taking joy in a person, more than in a thing, is what we are preparing for this Advent as we await the gift of Jesus’ birth.

Patrice E. Athanasidy writes from Westchester, New York.