Thursday, December 15, 2022

The Best Things in Life Are Free (Believe It Or Not)

I was walking to class the other day and stopped to say hi to one of my students. She looked like she'd been shopping, so I asked her what she bought. She told me it was Christmas presents, and then she admitted she felt really pressured because she has so many people to buy gifts for. She was worried that she wouldn't be able to afford to buy something for everyone on her list. She said she planned to work extra hours at her part-time job, so that she wouldn't have to disappoint anyone (I suggested that focusing on her studies was important too, but I don't think I convinced her).

It made me a little sad that someone who is no more than 18 and working hard to help with her tuition is feeling guilty that she might let someone down who was expecting a present. In fact, it makes me sad every year to watch some of my Christian friends obsessing over what to buy for whom, and worrying about how they will come up with the money for that special gift that [insert name of person] really wants. 

As a culture, we didn't always celebrate Christmas in such a commercialized way, but we certainly do in modern times. I've seen folks competing over which house has the most lights, or whose tree is the biggest and best decorated. I've seen all the commercials that equate being a good parent with buying your kids the most expensive toys. In fact, I've seen so many people worrying about "doing it right" that it seems to create more stress than joy. (I also note that Hanukkah, which used to be a simple little children's holiday and not even a major part of the Jewish calendar, has also been getting more and more commercialized with every passing year. I'm not fond of that trend either.)

As someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas, I'm fine about whatever my Christian friends do. But frankly, I wish so much of the holiday season weren't about the money and the gifts; and I wish there were a way to go back to a more simple means of observance. Perhaps I'm naive, but it seems to me the best gift we can give each other is love: welcoming folks who have nowhere to go for the holidays, bringing food to first responders and others who have to work on Christmas, Zooming or calling folks who are too far away to visit and letting them know you care, sharing a pleasant meal and good conversation with friends and family...  

And if you find yourself feeling stressed or guilty because your budget is limited, you shouldn't. The important thing is being there and letting people know they matter. I know that everyone enjoys getting presents; but my point is that love has no price tag. There are many people out there who need a kind word, and sometimes making someone feel a little less lonely is the best gift of all. So, as you prepare for whatever holiday you celebrate, remember that the best things in life (good health, good friends, the beauty around us) are all free. Don't take them for granted, and don't minimize them. And in this holiday season, that's what I wish for you: health, peace of mind, and the knowledge that you are loved. Happy holidays.


  1. It takes time to write a card and give them out personally or even mail them , I found today people appreciate the effort. You are correct in saying the best things in life are free. I know it to be true. For my joy comes from making others smile... no matter how fleeting our encounter may be.