Here’s a holiday pop quiz:
Do you remember what you received for Christmas last year?
Do you remember what you gave?
Me either. Sad, ain’t it? All the getting and spending and, by and large, no one remembers any of it two weeks later. What I remember about last Christmas (and every Christmas) is a push to find the right stuff and to make it all very memorable — and it’s not. Stuff is not memorable. Stuff never satisfies; it simply creates hunger for more stuff, because the stuff we buy doesn’t feed the soul. We are like the “hungry ghosts” in Buddhist philosophy who have voracious appetites and pinhole-size mouths. We can never get enough of what we don’t really want.
What does satisfy is meaningful experience. Experience stays in our memories, informing us for the rest of our lives. While I do not recall most of the material gifts I gave or received in my Christmases past, I do remember my third grade teacher, Mrs. Lumen, coming to our home on Christmas Day, having heard that my father had died the day before. And I remember our first Jacksonville Christmas some 15 years ago, watching the parade with tears of joy streaming down my face, because that day I learned that the baby I was carrying had not been lost in what I feared was a second miscarriage.
Gandhi said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” I will extrapolate from this to say that we are all hungry: hungry for something real, something meaningful, some felt experience of Love. Such an experience is not found in the mall, nor can it be found in an ever-shrinking world of me, myself and I, memorialized with a selfie and posted to Facebook. The bread we are so hungry for cannot be bought, only given and received with our hearts.
This year, I invite you to share the best and most substantive gift there is, which is your love in action. I’d like to offer five gift ideas to create a truly meaningful and soul-satisfying holiday. These gifts are free, and they are priceless; they will also be remembered for a lifetime.
Be the bread.
THE GIFT of PRESENCE
To be absolutely aware, attentive and without distraction is a rare gift, and a life-changing one. Do one thing at a time, single focus, and do it whole-heartedly.
THE GIFT of LISTENING
True listening has no agenda. It is not waiting to talk. It hears both what is said and what is not said. True listening involves the heart as well as the ears.
THE GIFT of TIME
In a world in a rush, run by a clock that keeps an imaginary count of eternity, it is a gift to give someone else your time in a free and unhurried way, cell phone off and out of sight.
THE GIFT of KINDNESS
Kindness is the acknowledgment that we are all struggling, that we are all in the same boat, and that we are not alone. Kindness is never forgotten, and it has a tendency to grow exponentially.
THE GIFT of APPRECIATION
To see someone deeply and vocally reflect their beauty back to them is one of the most life-changing, important gifts you can give. Being deeply seen opens us to our true selves and awakens our deepest potential. It is truly bread for a hungry heart.
KATE INGRAM, M.A. is a counselor, life coach, award-winning author and lover of bread in all forms. Find out more at katherineingram.com