My cousin's parents divorced when she was very young, and her father drowned one Thanksgiving weekend in a boating accident. She had an outpouring of sympathy from both sides of the family in the form of Christmas presents. That year was very lean for our family. My father worried how he could come up with the money to buy his five children Christmas presents. He pulled it off. We all got something to open, though it was meager compared with previous years.
On Christmas Day, my cousin told me about all the presents she had opened. I cried to my parents that she was gloating over all of her gifts and I didn't get hardly anything. My father put it into perspective by saying, "She got all those presents because she lost her father. Which would you rather have: lots of Christmas presents or your Daddy?" I suddenly felt so sorry for her and counted myself incredibly blessed.
A few days later my father printed out a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson and put it in an old frame for me. It said, "Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself." The quote stayed on my nightstand for many years as a reminder of my father's lesson: presence in the life of those you love is far more valuable than wrapped presents. Even though there were times that he couldn't give us every tangible thing that we may have wanted, he always gave all of himself, which has been far more precious.
The Only True Gift
The Dr. Laura Call of the Day Podcast