Wind Spinner, Santa Fe. Photo © Jane Alynn.

Last chance! Buy one and get one free!

‘Tis the season to be needled by these constant commercials. It is why December makes my head spin.

When I had children at home, gifts were part of the deal. The kids always had long lists of wants and would be on fire with anticipation. I would rush around, going from store to store, swept along in the holiday hustle and bustle, to fulfill my mission to find the right gifts for everyone.

These days the holiday season is simpler and much less stressful.

I came to realize that my favorite gifts over the years were not things. They were experiences. Moments. Time with family and friends, making music, art, and travel memories; sharing real conversation; and breaking bread together.

And time alone. Whether it was a long walk, mediation, or a solo field day to a place I loved, solitude gave me the gift of space to reconnect to myself.

Need some other ideas?

One of my favorite photographer-bloggers, David duChemin, offers some great ideas. Here are three:

Give a gift of patronage. Buy art. Buy a print from a high school kid or from the guy in your camera club. Buy a book of poems or short stories from an unpublished author at your writers’ circle.

Donate a piece of your work to a local non-profit, such as a hospice.

Give them your presence instead of your presents.

Joe McNally, another generous photographer-blogger, suggests giving the gift of sponsorship, partnering with a local non-profit to sponsor a young photographer or writer.

And perhaps the greatest gift is that of compassion. There are so many opportunities to help those who are suffering.

Today, I received a plea from my poetry mentor, Peter Levitt, who has with eight others on Salt Spring Island formed the Salt Spring Refugee Sponsorship Group because “we feel we cannot stand-by in face of the increasing crisis in the Middle East and Europe.” The group is dedicated to “do something hands-on to help refugees from Syria to come to Canada,” and is asking for donations.

These are gifts of a different kind. They cost little but serve BIG.

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