It was 1985 and our whole family had gone to hear a talk by visiting Jesuit Father Charles Gallagher. He was proposing a radical approach to Christmas: cancel the bought presents and give gifts of personal sacrifice, affirmation, service and kindness. Instead of the usual toys, movie tickets, clothes or festive foods, he challenged us to write a letter of affirmation, make a pledge card to wash the car or keep our bedroom tidy, make a promise to cease teasing a younger sibling. Our family took it on with enthusiasm and it was the most memorable Christmas we had ever had. I often wondered though, as a naïve teenager, whether the parents gave each other the gifts he suggested:

For the husbands to give their wives: 20 hours of listening; full attention, any time she needed it. She could take it as a twenty straight hours, or in 10 minute blocks.

For the wives to give their husbands: 20 ‘nos’ into instant ‘yeses’. No headaches, no excuses. He could claim them in one week or spaced throughout the year.

Naturally there was a great deal of laughter – Fr Chuck had a knack for hitting the sweet spot. But it points to an important issue: gift-giving is all about the recipient: what would truly delight them?

This Article was featured in the December 2011 Edition of the CathFamily e-Magazine.