As Christmas approaches, and the number of shopping days diminishes, our thoughts tend towards what we are giving our loved ones – and, all too often, whether our gifts are sufficiently special and expensive to please the recipients.
Perhaps we could benefit from turning this anxiety-provoking luxury-fest on its head – and looking at what really matters during any period of present-giving. Because, surely, the actual material gifts we buy, wrap and hand over are but a symbol of something far deeper and more valuable: Our love for those individuals. And herein, at the saying goes, lies the rub. Do we not, sometimes, invest an inordinate amount of our energy in the symbol – and forget the emotion which prompted it in the first place? Do we not spend so much time, and money trying to buy Designer garments, expensive ornaments and so forth because, for some people, the proof of love lies in how much your bank balance is depleted by in the New Year, and not in the wonderful roar of fiery warmth in your heart? Because, if the parcel is not big, perfect and costly, somehow you do not love that person enough to pass muster?
It is lovely to be given possessions. Don’t get me wrong. I adore opening presents and seeing what is inside. There is a childlike joy and excitement about the whole process which has, for me, never lessened in its intensity. But I do not need hundreds of pounds to be spent on me, never have. I do not want the best in jewellery and clothing. I do not expect to be taken out to the most popular and happening restaurant on my birthday, nor do I weep if my room is empty of floral bouquets on special occasions. If the love is there, such things are irrelevant; if there is no love, such gestures are meaningless anyway.
Very often, I find, it is the little things which speak the loudest – and touch the heart the most: Gifts which are for the individual and have nothing to do with this incessant need to spend the most money. Gifts which come with thought and care and a deep understanding of the true needs and desires of the individual.
For me, a text message (funny, wise, joyous, sharing) from a loved one means just as much as the best seat in the swankiest West End theatre. For me, six musical scales written out on a sheet of manuscript paper by a special friend touches me every bit as much as a six course dinner in a posh hotel. And for me, a ticket to see a group I have loved for years, given to me by a precious young person, is worth a wardrobe’s worth of silk and satin, velvet and sequins.
I have had great fun buying, and wrapping, presents for some of the people in my life. I hope they enjoy opening them. But the greatest gifts I have to give to any of those who will receive these material symbols are my love and loyalty. They are beyond price, cannot be hidden beneath brightly cheerful paper – and are, at their very best, life-long.
If I had no money, I would, quite simply, give my heart.