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I grew up in what I would consider a small close-knit family. There are five of us including myself. As I was growing up, I found the idea of “giving” rather unique in my family. My mom always told us that giving didn’t necessarily mean monetary, but rather giving of whatever you could be it clothes, money, or conversation and time. My grandparents are notorious for getting my sister and me little things because they saw it and thought we might like it. Or, when we went to college, we started getting random “love money” in the mail to help pay for some of the extra cost such as gas or groceries. However, the giving that I remember best, are the moments of their time and the little things that didn’t have a price tag.

My grandma taught me that the best gifts are those that contain a piece of the person giving the gift. Over the years I have gotten things such as hand-knit scarves, hand-knit purses, fleece blankets, and so on. Some of the gifts I will never wear or use, note the hand-knit purse, but the gifts all hold much more meaning to me than something bought off of a shelf. As I have gotten older, I started to realize the idea of making something for someone that they can have and keep with for a long time was much more meaningful to me than going to the store to buy them something. I think it is so easy to get caught up in the societal values today. Ipads, Ipods, Kindles, brand names. I mean it’s just overwhelming to think about. It is easy to give someone a piece of our society, but I think it is much more meaningful to give them a piece of ourselves.

I am not saying that everyone needs to become a master painter or craftsman/craftswoman, but when thinking about what to give this year, think about this. Is there an event that someone would really love to see or go to that you could go to together? Is someone you know moving and could use something handmade from a close friend or family member to remind him or her of home. Let me tell you from experience, I am no expert crafter nor am I creative, really at all. However, I know that the people whom I have given handmade gifts to truly appreciate and enjoy those gifts much more than a gift card they could have received. So I present this challenge this year, to not only to whoever cares to read this, but also to myself, go beyond the material and into the personal.

Sometimes when we get caught up in the idea of giving and buying and presents, we forget why we celebrate giving at all. It isn’t about who has the best gifts, it is about showing the people you care about, that they mean something important to you. And while an Ipad is always nice to unwrap, it won’t last nearly as long as the meaning that is put into a personal gift.

Lauren Boxell is a senior nursing student from Carmel, Indiana and is the founder of the Jewish Student Organization at Xavier.  She is known for her creative Hanukkah gifts–the picture with this post is of coasters she made for her sister.  She can often be found in the Center for Faith and Justice chatting it up with Katie Minning and eating Dots.