Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? The stores are offering great gift items at bargain prices right now and for those who have a vision to look ahead to Christmas 2019, it is a great time to begin shopping. After all, there are only 304 shopping days left until Christmas!

Although it is never too early to start thinking about Christmas gifts that someone on our list might enjoy, it is also the perfect time to remember that the best gifts often are those that don’t come wrapped in pretty paper or a pretty bag, tied with a sparkling ribbon. The best gifts are the ones that come from the heart, that can be given and enjoyed year-round.

I have a dear friend who lives in a nursing home. She has a fully-furnished private room and really needs nothing that can be wrapped in a package. But to her the greatest gift is someone dropping in for a visit, even if it is only for a few minutes. Several times she has mentioned a visit some weeks ago by someone she used to work with, and how much that visit meant to her.

Nearly all of us spend some time each day in our kitchen. When we are cooking or baking, why not make a little extra to share with a shut-in neighbor or someone who might be recovering from a serious illness? Many times they don’t have the energy or means of fixing a meatloaf, baking a ham or roasting a turkey, or even baking a batch of cookies. Think how much a dinner plate or a tray of homemade cookies might mean to that person, and how little it would cost to give it.

For those who say the kitchen scene is not their thing, just about every restaurant I can think of offers take-out.

Sometimes a word of encouragement is a gift that can keep on giving. Knowing that there is someone out there who has confidence in us, who believes that we are able to reach the goal we have set, who is willing to stand beside us to cheer us when we succeed and to help us up on those times when we fall, is a priceless gift that can never be put in a package for wrapping.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give, and it is almost always given in secret, is to pray for someone else. Everyone has a need – health issues, financial needs, emotional needs, traveling safety . . . the “needs” list is endless. But when we take the time to pray for someone, we are asking for the help that we can never give.

The great thing about these gifts is that there is no age limit – young and old alike need to know that there is someone who cares about them and isn’t afraid to show it.

There is no way that I have found to wrap time in a box, a bag or even, like the old song said, in a bottle. And it’s not the easiest gift to give, because we all have so many things we want to accomplish these days. But when we do find a way to give the gift of even just a little of our time to another, we will find that we are even more blessed than the one who received our gift.

That is my New Year’s resolution, to find more ways and more time to give to others.

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Thought for the week — Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege. (John D. Rockefeller jr.)

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