By Susie Finkbeiner
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This is the time of year when I look back at old holiday pictures. Recently I found one dated December 25, 1983. I was five years old.
Please don’t feel obligated to do the math.
In the picture I’m sitting between my grandma and my sister on our old plaid couch. I’m still in my pjs, my hair a tangle from sleep. On my lap is a box, green and red wrapping paper shredded like confetti and sprinkled around my legs.
In my arms I hold the homemade teddy bear that I’d found in the box. He was pink with a round tummy and a tuft of white yarn on top of his head. On my face is the biggest smile I could possibly make.
When I see that photo I’m reminded of how I loved that bear, how I took him everywhere that year. I remember how often my mom had to repair him, patching up his worn spots and stitching his loose ears.
And when I look at that picture I see a little girl who is overjoyed with a gift; not because it was expensive or the it gift for the year. That pink teddy bear was so precious because it was made and given with love.
Since that day I’ve opened dozens of gifts. Some were nice, some were — ahem — interesting. Some were so amazing I cried. Each time — regardless of the gift — I feel a thrill upon tearing the paper and opening the box. I experience overwhelming gratitude for the love wrapped up along with the object in the box.
And since that day, I’ve learned to enjoy picking out just the right thing to give to someone I love. Watching as they open the package, the look on their face when they see what I’ve tucked inside. Knowing that I’ve given them a little dose of joy is one of the best feelings in the world.
I’ve learned that it really is better to give than to receive.
The other day I found another picture, this one dated December 25, 2011. This time the little girl in the picture is my daughter. She was five years old.
On her lap is a box, pink and silver wrapping paper in strips around her legs. In her arms is a set of books she’d asked for at least a dozen times.
On her face is the biggest smile she could possibly make.
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