When the original “talking machines” burst on the commercial scene in 1925 a catchphrase was also trademarked. Phonographs were branded as “the gift that keeps on giving.” In the classic comedy movie, Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold tries numerous external motivators to enforce the holiday spirit. As each slapstick adventure with visiting family member threatens to derail the joy, it was the uncouth Cousin Eddie who helped Clark see deeper Christmas meaning beyond the infamous “gift that keeps on giving,” Jelly of the Month Club. Indeed, this IS the season for gifts, which begs the question, “exactly what WOULD a gift that kept on giving look like?
Through the years, I have reflected over a number of essays that suggest gift lists of items that “go the distance.” While I cannot do proper justice to all these authors in this abbreviated form, consider some criteria for gift suggestions to augment the digital mobile devices, game consoles and trendy toys atop the desires your children are sharing with jolly old St. Nick this year. Consider sharing ongoing gifts of WOW, love, self-confidence and principled choices with your children; such treasures surely will have staying power during the years ahead. In addition to these “gifts that keep on giving,” I would add giving the habit of regularly sharing what it is that you value about YOUR life. Letting children hear what excites you about your day provides a window for them into what is fulfilling, enriching and fun about the life you lead as an adult. You are your child’s best example of why THEY should aspire to adulthood!
When you share with your children your wide-eyed awe for people, the natural world and for life itself, when you demonstrate your unconditional love for them as individuals, when you express your reasons for the confidence you exhibit as you approach each day, and when you share exactly what it is you fundamentally believe in, you are providing priceless gifts that are formational and foundational. Such gifts will keep giving them joy and although it may not be immediately obvious, the resulting fulfillment will keep on giving you joy! Furthermore, children that receive such insights from the adults in their lives are also destined to BE gifts to those they will rub shoulders with throughout their lifetimes. While you are at it, spin a record or two on your phonograph. Now, that really will be an old-fashioned Christmas!