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Family Talk: Shop early and be an intentional gift giver

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I'm guessing some of you shop at the last minute and run out at 9 p.m. Christmas Eve, just as the stores are closing.

But others are the early shopping type. I think those people are the ones who get to enjoy Christmas longer and deeper than the rest of us.

One of my favorite authors, Bob Benson, echoed this sentiment in a story about his wife, Peg, buying a Christmas gift in July for their daughter, Leigh. Bob's family vacationed one summer in New England and during a trip to a woolen mill, Leigh spied a beautiful sweater she just loved. She was disappointed to see how expensive it was and turned away. But as soon as Leigh left the store, Peg bought the sweater, smuggled it back to their Tennessee home, and hid it in the back of her closet.

Months later, as Christmas approached, Peg slid the sweater out of its hiding place and carefully wrapped it with a beautiful bow. On Christmas Eve, she gently placed it under the tree.

Picture in your mind the Benson family on Christmas morning. They are gathered around the tree. After laughter and exclamations and many gifts being exchanged, a large box is finally laid on Leigh's lap. Curious, Leigh undoes the bow, slides her fingers under the wrap, and jiggles off the box top. As she lays back the folded tissue paper, her mouth opens into an “O” and her eyes flit back and forth, first to her mom, then to the sweater, then to her mom.

She speaks haltingly in half sentences. “I saw this in ... how did you ... where were you ... I didn't know ... I ... I ... I ...” Peg's face brims with a beaming smile. “I saw you admiring it back in July, and I knew you wanted it. It looked just like you,” Peg said.

Then the box is dropped and mother and daughter embrace in one of those back and forth, rocking horse hugs that conveys more than words.

Who do you think had the better Christmas that year, Peg or Leigh? Bob Benson, who witnessed the whole thing, thought it was Peg. Oh, Leigh was thrilled with the sweater, that's for sure. But Peg got to enjoy the Christmas spirit starting in July.

That's the value of early shopping. Of planned giving. Of paying attention when someone says, “I really like that.” When we hear those words, we should make a mental note. Buy that present and hide it away. Early shopping permits us to be thoughtful, intentional gift givers.

I know some folks like to give gift cards or cash to loved ones at the holidays. I guess that's OK. But if I had to choose between a gift card and Leigh's sweater, I'd take Leigh's sweater every time. Because an early purchased present is not just a gift, it's an expression of love.

And that's what we celebrate this time of year. A thoughtful and intentional present. A gift of love from above, planned from the beginning of time.

It's a joyous thing to be an early gift buyer.

Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at jpriest@sunbeamfamilyservices.org.

Jim Priest

Jim Priest is the CEO of Sunbeam Family Services, a 108-year-old nonprofit that provides a range of social services to support Oklahoma's most vulnerable people, including early childhood education, counseling, foster care and senior services. Jim... Read more ›

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