As we approach the holiday season, I ask the question, "Who loves to receive gifts?"
I asked a group of children this morning, what kind of gifts THEY like to receive.
One child thought doughnuts were a grand idea, and I couldn't agree more.
Personally, I like getting toilet paper as a gift and told them so.
I was met with scrunched-up noses and looks of disgust.
Anyone from my generation may share my opinion.
They did not.
Who wouldn't want free toilet paper?
I hate spending my hard-earned money on it, and I most certainly would never want to run out.
Another unpopular gift idea to many is a snake.
My middle child gifted me with a ball python on one of my birthdays in my 40's.
I couldn't have been more thrilled. (REALLY! There isn't sarcasm in this sentence.)
She knew I had a love for snakes, and that I wouldn't have indulged and spent that kind of money on myself, so she fulfilled my desire to own a reptile and gave me the gift of "serpent."
So it is recognized that age, gender, and station in life all determine what we may consider an appropriate gift.
A little boy in my group assured me that he would NOT want a My Pretty Pony set for his birthday.
It was too "girlie," he said.
Wasn't there a Simpsons episode where Homer bought Marge a bowling ball?
It may even have had his name engraved on it.
I was told a long time ago that husbands should avoid giving their wives any sort of gift with a handle on it (i.e. mop, broom, vacuum).
That seems to be very good advice, but I can't say that I wouldn't appreciate a hammer, or screwdriver or some sort of other practical gift.
The greatest gift we can receive are those that have US in mind first.
You wouldn't want to give a bag of sugar to a diabetic.
You don't give a comb to a bald guy.
You don't give snow pants to someone who lives in Florida, no matter HOW great the sale price is (unless you have included tickets to Colorado for a snow skiing adventure).
When my children were little, it was decided that they would no longer receive packages under the tree and typical gifts of toys and clothes.
"WHAT?!" you say.
Some would quickly jump to the conclusion that I am an awful parent and had surely lost my mind (an opinion that is shared by more than a few).
I can assure you, that I had not fallen off my rocker.
It was decided that my children would receive the gift of TIME.
Each Christmas, a destination was chosen and revealed on Christmas morning.
We typically tried to take the vacation in those boring months of January or February when not much is happening.
In years when the budget was tight, we may have only gone to Joliet and spent the night in a hotel with a pool and did something like hand out inexpensive gifts to random people in the entryway of the mall.
A year that we had a little more money, we planned a trip to Disney.
A night at Grand Bear Lodge complete with water park and arcade was our destination early on.
We didn't have to travel far.
One year we took a train trip and enjoyed people-watching on our layover in Grand Central Station.
Not ONCE did my children complain.
Not ONCE did I get an attitude about not getting sparkles and paper and ribbons and wrappings.
They got all of that from other family members.
What I did get was hugs and memories to last a lifetime.
My children are now grown, and our schedules are chaotic, and lives are different, and so I was going to give up this tradition, but my eldest asked with excitement last year where we were going and was totally disappointed when I told her of my plans to discontinue the practice – and so it has been revived.
This year's destination has taken into consideration my son's love of marine life and my daughter's desire to gamble, and we are looking forward to traveling together and spending time together.
It's going to take effort to get the money together.
It's going to take planning and thought, but isn't that what the best gifts are made of?
When I think of the gift of Grace that God has given to us, I see that He put a lot of thought into that concept, and that it is a gift that keeps on giving.
So the next time you're cruising through the clearance racks, remember that not everyone wants the pine-scented candle.
Some of us like snakes and toilet paper.
Lori Boekeloo of Hennepin is a mother of three. She can be reached at email@example.com, or friend her on Facebook for more humor and inspiration on a daily basis.