Red buckets. One of my favorite symbols of the winter holidays are those red Salvation Army buckets.
And the bells, too. The bright singsong of those bells.
They invite gratitude. It’s so satisfying, dropping a handful of change into that red bucket at the grocery store exit. Feeling the pause of the bell and the curl of a smile as the attendant nods her head in appreciation.
There’s no expected return. No long-term gain.
It’s just a gift. Pure and simple.
Somehow though, holiday protocol has become less focused on the act of gifting, and more focused on gift exchanging—the “give a gift, receive a gift” routine. And it can be a beautiful thing. Reciprocal exchange strengthens our interpersonal bonds with one another.
Still, holiday gift exchange can feel a bit obligatory. We often feel compelled to gift in order to feel good about receiving. The give/receive contingency can distract from the grace of pure, selfless gifting.
Personally, gifting fills me with deep gratitude. I find ways to practice it every day. Call it selfish, and that would probably be accurate. Studies have shown that gifting can increase a person’s sense of wealth.
How beautiful is that?
We can break the “give, receive” mentality while regaining the grace of gifting and the sense personal wealth it bestows. We just have to be conscious of it. These are my tried and tested strategies for capturing those “red bucket” moments effortlessly.
1. Disassociating “gifting” from “receiving.”
I’ve always felt a great presence of grace during my own family gatherings. Last holiday season, I started pondering why. I knew it ran deeper than the innate warmth of familial fraternity.
So I made a point to observe the gifting relay during my last family Christmas and I noticed something interesting.
As the six of us all sat around the tree, in a jungle of ribbon and wrapping paper, I started to realize that no two people gifted and received to one another back-to-back.
After my sister opened my gift to her, and thanked me with a fat heartfelt hug, she turned to gift my mother. She didn’t offer her present to me immediately after our exchange. Or even a few minutes after. By the time she reached over to me, gift in hand, I had forgotten to be expecting a thing from her. When I did, the grace of her gift was exceedingly present.
It was at that moment I understood the profound sense of grace I felt during our Christmas mornings.
When we sever giving from the receiving, we shake free from the sense of obligatory exchange. Instead, we’re left with the purity of gifting.
This holiday season, try forgoing the “give and receive” duets for a communal gifting extravaganza. It’s is a beautiful way to embrace the grace of gifting.
2. The graceful hunt—searching for intentional, meaningful gifts.
The grace of gifting starts the moment we consider the receiver, before we’ve even selected the gift. It starts with the hunt.
I’m a treasure-hunter. I get high on sifting through the rough to find that gleaning diamond. What I’ve come to appreciate is that a meaningful, thoughtful gift is truly a treasure. And the ecstatic feeling of finally spotting that gem is priceless.
Gift hunting can feel pretty damn hard. But it doesn’t have to be. Two of my favorite keys to hunting with grace are setting intention and keeping it personal.
Setting intention – the graceful hunt is always focused on the receiver. Did I spend enough? Am I being creative enough?
No, no, no—it’s not about me; it’s about the receiver. Setting this intention upfront de-stresses the hunt, because it’s no longer about our merit as a giver. The only question that matters is this: Does this gift honor the receiver? And if we’re intentional in our gift search, the answer will always be yes. No matter the shape, size or cost.
Keeping it personal – I use one question to help me with this one. What have we shared together? Or what can we share together?
Shared experiences are the best inspiration for thoughtful gifting. It’s about honoring the relationship. Keeping it personal brings the “me” back into the gifting equation, in the best way. Start with considering shared memories, experiences or inside jokes. Use those unique shared connections to create new shared experiences.
3. Give, hand-to-hand.
This one’s easy. Give without expectation of receiving. Give to friends, give to strangers. Just give, hand-to-hand.
Throw generosity around like confetti. Assault that red Salvation Army bucket with all the dimes you can spare. Hairnets and soup kitchens? Hand-me-downs and underprivileged kiddos? Yes and yes.
Money. Time. Labor. Hell, gift a smile! Hugs count too.
The crux is in the human touch. We are most connected when we gift from our own hands to another’s. Not when cloaked behind a checkbook, from the comfort of home. But when we are coupled to each other’s presence, cheek-to-cheek, eye-to-eye.
My warmest, fuzziest moments are always kindled in the afterglow of gifting. Volunteering my time, donating goods to those less fortunate or just giving a loved one a gift bomb when they least expect it.
And yes, it’s selfish. Studies have shown that giving makes us feel good. So gift yourself by gifting others.
There are endless ways to gracefully spread kindness during the holidays. But don’t stop there. Make it a year-round practice. Red buckets. Ice buckets. Pink ribbons. Whatever way you choose, get on it.
Gift indiscriminately, unabashedly, impulsively. And feel the blush of grace surge from your giving hands, straight to the heart.
Author: Cammie Noel
Editor: Nicole Cameron