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Gifts, Gratitude, and Presence

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By Dan Phillips, MA Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

holiday gratitudeIt’s that time of year again – when the words of favorite holiday songs ring out in loud, excited tones from my kids in the backseat as we drive. Yikes! That’s right! Christmas is only a matter of days away!!

But wait… should this season be greeted with perhaps a little more serenity and sanctity than we give it with our reindeer-racing thoughts?

For a vast majority of us, whether we intend to or not, we find ourselves swept up by a cultural tsunami, washed out into the sea of glittering lights, shopping, and chasing a desire to make this feel like “the best holiday ever.” However, much like Clark Griswold in the movie Christmas Vacation, we end up stressed out by messy family issues, worried about financial strain, and drained emotionally to the point of saying “@#!&$…Where’s the Tylenol!”(or worse).

Yet, what if there were a simpler way to help ourselves, our kids, and our fellow human beings, experience gifts that truly are the “the gift that keeps on giv’n the whole year!”

These gifts aren’t covered in ribbons or fancy foil gift wrap; no, instead these are values that help us and others know we are loved, appreciated, cherished and worthy. It may sound too good to be true, but these really are gifts we can all give and receive.



It is true that Thanksgiving, as a holiday, has passed, and given way to the grandeur of Christmas. But the most significant part of that feast, the Gratitude we have shared, both in value and practice, must not be boxed up like the turkey leftovers. Instead, perhaps for Christmas we should revitalize our focus on being grateful; for the material things we have, sure, but more importantly for intangible gifts: of living life, loving deeply, practicing generosity, creating cherished memories, and so many more.



In tandem with this, the gift of simply being also cannot be overstated, especially during a season that elicits so much hustle and bustle. Practicing being present with others is an invaluable gift, especially for our children, but really for all of us. Just ask someone who has had a great friend, or a good therapist, and they surely will underscore the empathic connection – the ability of the other person to simply be with them in the moment. Working to be present with, and for ourselves, is an important practice that elicits the ability to fully engage in our life, relationships, and even our pain: because honestly, without the balance of these moments, we would not be fully alive.

So, as you look to the days ahead, take time to find a focus on gratitude and to practice the gift of being present – don’t worry if it’s weird or hard at first, because it’s not about perfection. It’s about embracing being whoand where you are. And in doing so, you might just surprise yourself with the gift of being able to truly give of yourself in a deeper and truer sense this Christmas.

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