The Real Gift

Daniel - Bucharest, Romania
Entered on March 9, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

For as long as I can remember, it has been annually ingrained in me that Christmas is about giving. Now, at 15, I realize that I truly believe that in any time of the year, giving is better than giving.

Every year on December 25, my whole family wakes up early in order to be ready for the big moment. Mom and Dad go downstairs first to set up the video camera and put last minute presents under the tree or in our stockings. My two sisters and I count down the remaining minutes with escalating anticipation. Finally, the instant we’ve all been waiting for; we scramble downstairs to open our gifts. Just like always. But not this last Christmas, last Christmas was a little different. Last Christmas I learned what it was that was so truly important about Christmas.

My family had made a decision last winter to open our gifts one at a time. This meant not to have the normal rush for my next present, along with everyone else-not to be completely oblivious to everything else in the room except myself, but to wait, to be patient, to pay attention to the gifts that you gave, not the ones you received. This attentiveness somehow added to the already jubilant day.

The lesson I learned that morning can apply to all areas of my life, and I hope that it will stick with me the rest of my life. I learned that caring for others makes me so much more joyful than when I simply take care of myself.

Caring for others is simply giving them a little something when you didn’t have to. I have found a plethora of opportunities to accomplish this where I live-Bucharest, Romania. There are so many people I see every day who are not anywhere close to “well off”. Old women who go to the piata, or open market, everyday to sell vegetables: lettuce, potatoes, and whatever else is in season. They travel home on the same tram that I do. How much energy and time would it cost me to help them lift their giant bags on and off the steep tram steps? What a difference it would make in their day? How much could I cheer up someone whose job it was to sell tickets in a small booth, just by wishing them a good day? Or even something at home, like listening to how my sisters’ day went. All of these situations and more have helped me to realize hat it means to care.

It seems so illogical this belief: that giving away my time and possessions would profit me; but I have learned that it is true. One of the most important truths is that the best we can do for others, and ourselves, is to give.

So the next time I go to unwrap a present that life has put in front of me, I hope to remember to first look around and ask myself, “Whom can I care for?” and proceed to put a present, even a small one, in their life that day.