Give Yourself Away


This Christmas give your family and friends the one gift no one else in the world can give them. Give them yourself.

Think in terms of what you can do rather than what you can buy.

You may be good at repairing things, sewing, painting (walls, fences, or portraits), organizing, singing, gardening, entertaining children, styling hair, lettering, or washing dishes. Whatever your talents, you can find a fun way to give them as a gift. And since you’re giving yourself, you can not only utilize your unique talents but also personalize the gift to meet the exact needs of the recipient.

Two top players on a junior high basketball team found a way. Instead of spending the Christmas holidays playing one-on-one and watching TV, they organized a basketball clinic for neighborhood boys.

From the youngster’s reaction one would have thought they wouldn’t have been more impressed or thrilled had Walt Frazier and Jerry West been their teachers.

If cooking is your bag, offer to relieve Mom of the Sunday dinner routine or make a special “thank you” cake for the meetinghouse custodian. If you have an artistic flair, you can help your Sunday School teacher (and the meetinghouse library) by making charts or posters.

Typists have a valuable gift literally at their finger tips. A neat, clean term paper would mean a lot to a friend who uses the “seek and ye shall find” method. The ward clerk could also use your services.

If you can carry a tune, lend some support to the ward choir. If you’re an editor at heart, surprise your mother by organizing a scrapbook from the chaos of her family photos. Or just clean out the garage. Someone close to you needs every talent you’ve got. One much-in-demand baby-sitter always takes along arts and crafts projects pertaining to the holiday at hand to keep the children busy and happy.

Give younger brothers and sisters coupons for having stories read, playing catch, helping them learn to roller skate, driving them somewhere, taking their turn at the dishes, or letting them watch their favorite TV program even if you were there first. And do some secret good deeds: shine all the family’s Sunday shoes; make your sister’s bed while she’s in the bathroom in the morning; get up during the night and mix up orange juice for breakfast and leave a cheery place card at each person’s place; leave some decorated cookies on your neighbors’ porches when they’re not looking; get up early and shovel the walks of two other homes on the block besides your own.

And don’t forget the gift of appreciation. My parents treasure a Christmas letter they received from a son in the military, and a woman in our ward was deeply touched to find an anonymous note from a Beehive girl, thanking her for setting a good example.

It’s your turn. If you’re an amateur poet, why not write a verse or two about each member of the family, expressing your love and appreciation?

How long has it been since you complimented a child on a 2 1/2-minute talk, or even phoned after sacrament meeting to tell the speaker how much you enjoyed his message? A sincere compliment is as much an appropriate gift as anything else you could give.

You can encourage friends and family in whatever they do, from practicing the piano to trying out for the track team. You can help make this a merry Christmas for missionaries, servicemen, and others away from home by writing a letter or sending a tape. Your Young Women class could make a service project of it and have a ball in the process!

I can promise you that by sharing your time, effort, and ability you’ll leave yourself and others richer. This year I gave my mom a certificate for helping with the spring cleaning. After a full day of scouring walls, scrubbing floors, washing windows, and ironing curtains, I told her it would be much easier just to buy a nice present. “Yes,” she said, “but it wouldn’t be appreciated as much.” And I knew that it wouldn’t be my last “gift certificate” after all.

Try it. With a little planning and a lot of doing you can make the penniless Christmas when you give yourself away the richest Christmas you have ever had.

[illustration] Illustrated by Dick Brown