Do you have trouble finding that unique or personal Christmas gift for a friend or family member?

Does he or she “have everything”?

Do crowded malls, traffic jams, long lines, and overspending leave you tired, frustrated, and lacking in holiday spirit?

If so, my grandmother may have just the solution for you.  Although she died almost thirty years ago, Grandmother’s words inspired this message so appropriate for Christmas time.

Usually around Thanksgiving my family asks me what I would like for Christmas.  The older I get the harder it is to think of something that I truly want or need.  This is frustrating for them because they really wish to express their love and thoughtfulness in a present that I can open on Christmas morning.

This year when my mother (or anyone else) asks the question, “What do you want for Christmas?” I will be ready with an answer. It is a response inspired by my maternal grandmother during many family dinners that we enjoyed together.

Holidays, Sundays and birthdays were special gatherings where the food and laughter were abundant. The meals were memorable in quality and quantity. Tender roasts of pork or beef, Southern fried chicken, or country ham were complimented by a lavish array of vegetables and side dishes. In the summertime there were garden-fresh green beans simmered in “fat back”; sweet corn-on-the-cob; vine-ripened tomatoes and cucumbers; fresh potato salad; and warm, velvety-smooth homemade applesauce. In the wintertime there were bowls of delicate ambrosia, squash casseroles or fragrant sweet potato soufflés, home-canned creamed corn and green beans. Summer or winter, there were homemade rolls or biscuits enhanced by salty-sweet country butter and champagne-pink crabapple jelly or sourwood honey. Desserts were equally plentiful. There was always a buttery rich pound cake served with boiled custard crowned with floating meringues and a freshly baked pie: berry, pumpkin, pecan or apple.

Toward the end of the meal, when Grandmother was asked if she would like anything else, she would always laugh and respond, “No thank you … I’ve had a gracious plenty.” For me, that said it all. She was completely content and totally satisfied.

IMG_1290Like Grandmother, I believe that I’ve had “a gracious plenty.” So, this year, instead of a gift that can be purchased, wrapped, and placed under the tree, I’m asking for a gift that will bring as much satisfaction and contentment to the giver as to the receiver.

What I would like from friends and family members is that they take a few moments each day during the first week or two of December to do something generous, satisfying, thoughtful and caring. These “good deeds” or “random acts of kindness” can be for themselves, each other, friends, family members, or even strangers. These gestures can be as simple as letting another car merge first in a long line of traffic, placing some spare change in a Salvation Army kettle, paying a sincere compliment, calling a service person (in a restaurant, grocery store, or dry cleaners) by name while smiling and making eye contact. It could be a donation to a favorite charity, a phone call to a friend, neighbor or shut-in. It could be a plate of home-baked cookies for an elderly acquaintance, an offer to baby-sit or pet-sit. It could be a gift to himself or herself such as a massage, manicure, bubble bath, or even permission to sleep late one morning. The possibilities are limitless.

Every day, during those first two weeks of the month, I ask that they wake up with the goal of doing something special for someone special.  Record these “gifts of kindness” and share them with me at Christmas. By writing their good deeds in a letter, I can enjoy them not only at Christmas, but also throughout the year. Their gifts to others will also be their gift to me … and to themselves. It could become a tradition and a habit, which may even change their lives. I know it will enhance mine.

Sheila Barnard Nungesser

Sheila Barnard Nungesser

Sheila Nungesser is a native of Asheville, NC and has degrees from UNC and GSU. After working as a teacher and technical writer for several years, she whimsically applied for a position at Delta Air Lines, learned French, and flew internationally for the rest of her career. Recently retired, she has traded her wings for horses. She and her husband Phil are designing a horse farm near Asheville where she hopes to prove Thomas Wolfe wrong: that you can go home again.