“Give a Free, Completely Customizable, Totally Unique Gift This Christmas: You,” Ensign, December 2019
Giving the perfect Christmas gift often seems like a charitable zenith reached only by the gift-giving elite: mothers, grandmothers, and Santa Claus. But the truth is we can all become expert gift-givers, and it doesn’t require special instincts, a lifetime of experience, or an army of elves. It just requires you!
After all, the best gift-givers almost always have one thing in common—they give of themselves. President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, taught that great gift-giving nearly always involves three key elements: empathy, generosity, and sacrifice.1 Gift-giving with these three elements in mind reminds us that the best gifts we give aren’t the presents wrapped in brightly colored paper or tied in bows at all but the underlying gift of self that tangible gifts can represent. Here are five gift ideas that can help you give of yourself this Christmas.
Our time is one of the few resources we all have in common but never seem to have enough of. Sacrificing our time in someone else’s behalf is one way we can show how much we care about them. Giving time means giving your undivided attention to someone in whatever way you think will be most meaningful. It looks different for everyone!
Gifts of time can take the form of phone calls, walks in the park, dinner dates, or written notes. The key with this gift is being the first one to say, “Hey! Let’s spend some time together!” and then sacrificing whatever less important, time-consuming tasks get in the way.
One of my best friends and I make a point of getting lunch together about every month or so, and it means so much to me. We both have limited time and live cities apart, so you better believe it takes some coordination! But the sacrifice is always worth the effort. I truly believe we can never overestimate the power of time spent together.
Generously thanking those who’ve touched our lives for good enables us to give one of the most priceless gifts out there: validation. By freely showing our appreciation to those who’ve served us, in large ways or small, we’re demonstrating that we value them and their personal sacrifices in our behalf.
The best gift I’ve ever given was an audio recording to my mom. I asked each family member to send me a 30-second voice memo sharing what they most appreciated about my mom and why, and then I patched it all together into one recording. It’s hard to describe how we felt when my mom listened to that recording—hers definitely weren’t the only wet eyes in the room. Later, my mom told me that even though she knew we all loved and appreciated her, she didn’t hear it vocalized that often. To my mom, having that simple audio recording on hand was a sweet reminder that her efforts and sacrifices for our family weren’t going unnoticed. I’ll never forget the power of gratitude shared!
Reflecting on the formative experiences behind the relationships we cherish can help us form new connections of empathy with our loved ones. We all remember shared experiences differently. Reminiscing about a shared memory with someone from your point of view can be a treasure—they probably have no idea what your thoughts and experiences were at that moment! Giving your perspective can bring the power of vulnerability and empathy into relationships in new and rewarding ways.
Sharing memories can take the physical form of photo albums, journal entries, or even home video compilations. Whether the memory makes you laugh or cry, the gift of shared life experience can tie the bonds between you and your loved ones even tighter.
When my husband and I were dating and close to getting married, we decided to read certain entries from our journals out loud together. We reminisced about when we first started dating, cried together over past trials, and laughed about how differently we saw things sometimes. Not only was it hilarious and downright fun, but it helped us grow closer together as we developed a new appreciation for who we were as individuals and how far we’d come together.
Being aware of others and their needs is an underrated gift we could all try a little harder to give—after all, we’d all love to be noticed a little more every now and then. Awareness means being an active participant in your relationships and being empathetic in your interactions. It’s as simple as complimenting a new haircut and as subtle as sharing a smile.
The Spirit can direct you to those you should intentionally aim to be aware of—it could be a spouse, neighbor, coworker, or sibling. Showing your awareness of those around you will help you be an instrument in the Lord’s hands and prepare you to follow the Holy Ghost when it comes time to act. Making a point to invest in the lives of those we care about is a gift that will pay dividends year-round, not just at Christmastime.
I’ll never forget my gratitude when a coworker gave me the gift of awareness during one particularly rough day at work. I had stormed into the office without greeting anyone, frustrated and already wishing the workday to be over. After I had cooled off a bit, he came over and kindly asked me how I was doing, saying he’d noticed I hadn’t given my usual cheery “’Morning, Bryan!” as I’d walked in. We talked and I blew off some steam, but what touched me more than anything was that he noticed something was out of the ordinary and had the courage to talk to me about it. I was surprised by how much it meant to be noticed that day. And I know we each can be that person for someone else!
Of course, the best gift we can give at Christmastime (and anytime, really) is love. Giving love requires all three elements of great gift-giving. It requires us to empathetically consider where others are coming from rather than pass judgment, be generous with our talents and resources, and make sacrifices with no expectation of reward.
The Savior was the perfect example of giving the gift of love. As you celebrate His life this Christmas season, consider His example and ponder what you can do to become like Him. The Spirit will help you know how to love—and what you need to sacrifice to better love those in your life.
Heavenly Father knows our hearts and intentions (see 1 Samuel 16:7). He knows we’re capable of giving good gifts already, but He wants to make us great gift-givers like He is (see Matthew 7:11). So it doesn’t really matter whether your gifts are seemingly subpar or par excellence this Christmas: if the giving helps you become more empathetic, more generous, and more willing to sacrifice in behalf of others, you’re on the right track to become more like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ—the greatest gift-givers of all.