ON today’s Letters Page is a short note from a very grateful lady.
It tells of a simple act of kindness which brought a lump to my grizzled old throat.
I won’t spoil it for you as it is so simple, so eloquent that it deserves to be read and savoured.
Go to Page 25, but make sure to come back then the rest of this will make more sense...
I wish I had it in me to be spontaneously generous.
My kids would disagree. They have seen me too often with a pint or two inside me wanting to give away the family silver.
In fact, after a couple more pints, I am happy to give away the kids!
But that is probably another story.
For now I want to concentrate on what it means to give away something.
After all we are getting to the time of year when we traditionally exchange gifts.
But hidden in that sentence is the key to modern-day Christmases: exchange.
We don’t give, as such.
We pass on something in the expectation of getting something back in return. Sometimes we make a loss on the deal, other times we are in profit.
But generally we come out even.
I’ll spend twenty quid on them because that’s what they spend on us.
Is that what Christmas has become?
A happy bloomin’ Christmas as long as things balance out at the end of the day?
I know it is different where children are concerned.
We love to see their faces as they tear through all that carefully Sellotaped wrapping paper. And then, bemused, shake our head as they spend more time playing with the box than with the toy itself.
My daughter would still love a new tele every Christmas just so she can climb in the box and pretend she is not there!
But children apart, why have we fallen into this trap of giving gifts to adults when, let’s face it, we haven’t a clue what they would like.
And they’ve got even less of an idea what to give back in return.
All that matters, really, is that their gift cost no more than the one they gave us.
I must admit that I haven’t helped over the years.
My kids always clubbed together to buy me a new set of guitar strings come Christmas (I know I should change them more often, but I’d rather play the thing than fiddle about with the tuning pegs).
I am quite particular not only about the make of strings but also the gauge. So I was specific that they should be X-brand and a particular weight.
No surprise. No spontaneity. Just someone doing what they think is right because they suspect I’d be disappointed if I didn’t have anything to unwrap.
The truth is I don’t really mind. It’s less packaging to throw away.
There is the notion that I am depriving someone of the pleasure of giving a gift to me. But I think I would be happier relieving them of the problem of buying me a surprise.
Isn’t it time we all grew up as far as giving gifts to grown ups is concerned?
Let’s be spontaneous. And put a smile on a stranger’s face instead!