Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Tis the season for Christmas cards and gift giving. I love Christmas for a multitude of reasons: seeing family, good food, baked good, Christmas lights, snuggling up, good food (yes, I know I said it twice), and snail mail! I love snail mail. Tradition at my house growing up was to put the cards on the cupboard at the end of the hall and they would stay up for the season. I'm not sure why or how the tradition started, but that was the tradition, and so now in my own home, I do the same thing. Christmas cards are hung all over my closet doors. I have no idea how I would explain this to my spouse or justify its necessity--it's just one of those things. It's a tradition. I love snail mail because it makes me feel loved. And quite frankly, I love feeling loved.
Coupled with the cards is the occasional gift. Now the gift giving thing is interesting. A bit odd even if you ask me. I don't expect gifts, especially not from parishioners, but there are a handful who do give me gifts. And in one respect it's odd because I don't give gifts to my parishioners. For starters, I couldn't afford to buy for 400 people. That'd stretch my budget a bit too far! But, for people who are under my supervision, for lack of a better term, I did buy gifts. I want them to know I appreciate what they do, and, at Christmas, a gift seems to be the most appropriate way of saying so. But then you run into an interesting conundrum--how much does one spend on such gifts? Do you buy them all the same (so that everyone is *equal*)? Or do you get something different and particular to each person? Do you get something for the one's you are closest to personally? Or those you need to appreciate the most professionally?
And on the receiving end of things...it's hard for me to accept. I don't accept compliments well and I don't accept gifts well. I've had to work very hard at smiling and saying "thank you" in both cases. And that goes for something as simple as a candy bar or pair of socks, let alone when someone writes me a check or gives a donation in my name. I guess I'm not quite sure how to understand the gesture. I mean, some folks I have a more established relationship with. We've done projects together, or work directly together on a ministry, others I've counseled. But some really only see me on Sunday mornings. I probably couldn't tell you more than a handful of facts and none of those is particularly outstanding. And yet, they feel compelled to give me a really nice gift. It's overwhelming. Seriously. I mean, is it just the office? Is it that I stand as God's representative? Is it that I prayed for a spouse or loved one somewhere along the way and this is a way of thanking me? Or does what I do on Sunday morning, which often feels like it's falling on deaf ears or lacking all I should be giving it, actually add up to something more significant at the end of the year?
It's all perplexing to me. Not so much so that I will lose sleep over it. I'm too tired for that. (Sickness took hold this weekend and is not letting go). But makes you wonder. Or at least it makes me wonder. And it also leads into another tricky thing of being compelled by the love they have shown to me but not wanting to respond and have my response be misinterpreted as them having *purchased* my time or investment in them....does that make sense? Hmmm....