How can we recapture the holiday spirit? Start giving from the heart

crowdWith the holidays here, I find myself flooded with warm memories of my childhood. You know the ones — the smell of pine in the air, the sound of crinkling decorative paper as presents are being wrapped, the tastes of comfort foods, turkey, gravy, and of course … sushi.

All these recollections remind me of what Christmas is really about — ME! Wait a minute, wasn’t there something about good will towards … er, somebody?!

All joking aside, it’s worth reflecting on what the holidays have become, and what we’ve lost in our rush to buy the latest and greatest gadgets or toys for under the tree.

If I were to ask myself or any of my peers about their favorite holiday memories, I’d wager that it’d be a pretty self-centered account. Gifts that I had received, food that I had eaten, things that revolve around experiences specific to me.

Now, I am not saying that this makes us bad. These are cherished memories that greatly impact our lives. But isn’t it worth questioning why we focus so much on ourselves during a season that’s supposed to celebrate community, family, gratitude and giving?

If you need any proof that we’ve gone astray on the meaning of the holidays, head out to any given store on Black Friday and have a gander at the crowd. People pushing people just to get the best deal of the day. Brutal! Our concept of giving very often manifests itself into what we can buy. Yet when our efficiency at shopping defines our ability to give, don’t we limit our capacity to express ourselves?

crowd2I propose an alternative: What if we expressed our gratitude, love, and compassion for those around us with whole-hearted giving?

What is whole-hearted giving? It means that we open our hearts to others and gift them something that only we can truly give — time. Rather than giving grandma that gift card to Longs, take her shopping instead. Want to give your nephew a gift he’ll remember. Take him hiking in Manoa. How about taking it one step further? What if we gave not just to those closest to us, but to complete strangers as well? I believe our community would be a better place for it.

Ready to try something different? Here’s some ideas for giving from the heart to those around you:

Give a “service” coupon. Instead of buying a gift, give a coupon to DO something for a loved one. You’d be surprised how many people just want some time with you.

Organize a gift drive for teens. Every year, people donate or contribute to toy drives for kids. Many teens actually go without presents because their demographic is often forgotten.

Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Give the ultimate ‘”commodity” to a complete stranger — your presence and your time. You will be amazed at how much it means to someone you’ve never met.

Clearly, giving from your heart takes time and effort. But each positive action we take, each moment we give to someone else is also a gift to yourself — you’ll feel enriched and fulfilled and better for it.

If we start to move away from what money can buy, and into what we can give that holds true meaning, we can move collectively toward truly living our holidays whole-heartedly.

MikeTenganMichael Tengan is owner and a certified personal trainer at Prime Fitness and executive director of Sweet Annie, an organization committed to championing a healthier lifestyle for Hawaii’s communities. Sweet Annie focuses on food access, health education and lifestyle changes. Tengan grew up on Maui, more comfortable with plate lunches and mac salad than quinoa and legumes. His journey toward living a healthy lifestyle was a long one, and involved breaking the bad habits he learned as a kid.

One comment

  • Christmas isn’t about “me” or “us”. It’s about others. Others in your family. Others in your neighborhood. Others that lack such shiny material blessings as a roof over their heads or food in their stomachs. The old phrase “There but for the grace of God go I” comes to mind …


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