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Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Greatest Gift of All

The picture says it all: if you have a banana leaf to share with your friend on a cold rainy day, you have it all. I wish life could always be that simple.

I just had my first Christmas in the US. It was an authentic Christmas with a tall christmas tree laden with ornaments and small family photos and candy canes and piles of gifts for everyone. We had holiday ham and cristmas crackers and smores and so many candies and sweets that I could possibly imagine. We were laughing and telling jokes and had a jolly good fun until it's time to go home. I was buzzed with wine and from the warmth of my husband's family, and I thought to myself there simply is no better day than Christmas day.

Yet as we loaded our gifts and presents to our car a struck of awereness sobered me up. We had arrived with a trunkfull of gifts for our family, no less than a dozen of them. That night we drove home with a huge basket filled with kitchen utensils and a plastic crate filled with art materials for our 5 year olds, and boxes and boxes of toys and children clothes and other little knick knacks and sweets from our stocking stuffer. It filled our trunk and one of the passenger side in our car. That was a lot of gifts. 

I wonder what is it like, as a child, to have so many awesome gifts. My 'massive gift' experience was limited to the rare birthday parties I had as a child, not more than 3-4 times in my whole entire life, which consists of a number of crayons/colored pencil/notebooks/cheap plastic toys. It goes the same with my younger brothers and my 5 year old nephew. The gifts were average (to say the least), but we still periodically do that for the sake of giving the little ones a chance to be a star for a day. The better gifts though, they're unforgettable. The Batman figurine and hand-held racing game that my Dad brought us from Japan in the late 90s was still intact and playable this recent days. And the battered plastic airplane which lost a half of its left wing was sufficient for my little nephew to play pilots (with plastic ruler as the inclined ramp). We remember fondly who gave our toys and even in what circumstance, and with that we developed appreciation towards the giver, regardless how trivial the toys are. It is, you can say, the law of the few. You'd appreciate more if you don't have much.

But what if you always have great gifts, and in large numbers too? Will it desensitize you? I looked at our child's craft materials with deep concern. Will she remember fondly about her grandparents when she uses them? Or when she played with her little pony toy? How sad if she didn't. Because gifts were not supposed to be about getting impressive things, but it's about knowing you are impressive enough for someone to gifting you and thus showing you affection. Yet how, as a child, can she know all this? With mountain of awesome gifts for her to choose from, how can she even remember who gave what? And can she really love every single one of her gifts when she knew perfectly well next birthday or another Christmas she'll have another mountain of gifts? And the toys, what would you feel if you were them and knowing you can be thrown away and/or forgotten in a matter of days? It was supposed to be a day of giving and loving and grateful appreciation, but is it really so?

I remember days I spent with my little stuffed tiger. I had him since elementary school and he's still with me to my late twenties, even though he's lost an eye and has multiple stitches and a couple of cigarette burn (don't ask). Yet to me he worth more than fanciest, fluffiest, softest stuffed animal you could ever found these days. And I am grateful for that feeling. A man who was lost in the desert would appreciate a glass of cold water far better than a rich man in his penthouse. It is an experience that money couldn't buy. I looked at our sleeping child and wonder can I provide the same wisdom for her, or was she beyond salvation. Time will tell. But for me, as I unpacked my gifts from the big wooden basket I remember the picture of the two boys with the banana leaf and I smiled. At times, the only thing you need in a rainy day is someone to share it with, and to know someone care about you enough to shelter you from it. And that, my friend, is the greatest gift of all. Merry Christmas dear friends.

Sent from Samsung Talenan

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