There was a kid’s picture book that I used to read when I was little. It is about a cat named Mooch and a dog named Earl. The plot runs as follows: Since it was Christmas time, Mooch wanted to get Earl a gift, yet Earl had everything he ever wanted. A bed. A bowl. A chew toy. Mooch could not think of anything to get him until finally he thought of something. He put it in a large box and presented it to Earl. Earl opened the box and thereupon found the perfect gift.
Christmas is well known as the season of giving. Yet it seems that some get so caught up in finding the perfect gift that they forget how to do the more important act of giving. Further, this cancer also spreads into the “get” mentality where one finds people comparing gifts and feeling envious of other people’s Christmas experience. This entire philosophy ruins Christmas. Therefore, we should refrain from the intense focus of giving or receiving what we want but giving in a way in which is best. For example, some of the most meaningful gifts come from children. Why? They are not spending their hard-earned money or purchasing for someone else the newest gadget. It is because they follow the method of giving perfectly without even intentionally thinking of it.
I was listening to a homily a couple weeks ago when the priest fell upon this topic. He said there are several aspects that go into giving the perfect gift, which all apply to children. The first one was to give cheerfully. When children have a gift prepared for someone, they are incredibly excited to give it. They are looking forward to the happy moment between the giver and themselves. When they do give it, they are overflowing with joy. In opposition, when one does not give cheerfully, it is usually accompanied by a vice, whether it is not wanting to part with the material thing or selfishness.
Step two, the priest said, would be to give quietly. When children give a gift, they do not go around telling everyone about how great they are for giving to someone, and if they do, it is only out of desire for others to be included in the joyful experience. It would never be out of boastfulness of giving so great a present. Similarly, the legend of Santa Claus seems to be so admirable because Santa gives in a secretive way, never staying for honor or reward. Jesus also recommends this method and condemns the opposite when he says in Matthew 6, “when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogue and on street corners so that others may see them… when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.”
The last part of giving in a perfect way would be to give totally. To relate this idea, Father told a story. He began with the situation that everyone from a town was outside freezing, and they all carried a single stick. If they all combined their sticks, they would be able to start a fire and live. Yet, they were so stuck on their differences and how they did not like each other that they would not cooperate, and they all ended up freezing to death. Thus, the point of the story was the fact that everyone has something to give, no matter their background or the wealth to their name, and when their gifts are rejected and not wanted, something is lost and in the case of Father’s story, people freeze to death. In another way, giving totally can be giving something without expecting anything in return. Naturally, children do not think of receiving returns for gifts they give.
Referring to the story from the beginning of the example of the perfect gift, when Earl opened the box, he was perplexed. “There is nothing here” he says. That was exactly what Mooch intended and he replied “Nothing… but me and you!” The final line of the story is “So Mooch and Earl just stayed still and enjoyed nothing and everything.” Therefore, I advise you, reader, to give a little more cheerfully, a little more quietly, and a little more totally, and maybe you will be able to enjoy a little more “nothing and everything” with your families this Christmas season.