“It’s just not fair,” my soon-to-be 12 year old brother said to me while setting up a video game, “I get less presents than you guys because my birthday is near Christmas.” He set our two Disney Infinity characters on the play set. This year for Christmas, we received five new characters. Each costs 12.99. A total of ten characters.
This is my family’s first Christmas in the United States in three years. In general, around Christmas time, the amount of consumerism, greed, and things we receive can overwhelm me. I’ll never forget hearing two girls complain about their $700 Christmas budget a few weeks ago. I’ll never forget the way my aunt bought my 18 month old cousin a power wheel. I’ll never forget this conversation I had with my brother.
“Well, if you get gifts, why does it matter?” I asked him.
He shrugged. “Because I get less.”
I’ll admit – I’m an unusual person. I’m a person who genuinely does not like to have a lot of things. I have my family. All four grandparents, two parents, 12 cousins, three aunts, five uncles and two siblings. I have friends from my travels all over the world. I have things I wouldn’t ever need but love to use, such as my laptop, iPod and PS3. What could a person that has everything want?
“Listen,” I said to him, “Getting gifts is a luxury, even if all you get is a fancy pencil. I celebrated my sweet sixteen last summer during our move. I had no friends to celebrate it with. All we did was go out for dinner. And still, I would love it just the same as getting a car.”
False. I was relieved to wake up this Christmas morning and not find car keys with my name on them under the tree.
My brother shrugged again. “Still. You guys get more presents during your birthday than I do.”
I sighed a breath of disappointment in my head, but kept my spirits up for this kid. I thought back to Christmas of 2009, when I remember being slightly disappointed in my presents. I remember thinking to myself, “Think of all the children who are not getting what you’re getting,” and, “Think of all the families that would kill to have just one day of your life.” From the age of eleven, I had taught myself to cherish each and every gift given to me, for receiving gifts is a luxury. The thought is truly what matters and is, in my opinion, my favourite part about receiving gifts.
The best gift I got this season wasn’t wrapped in paper under a tree. It was given to me by a friend whom I was talking to via Steam chat while feeling quite down, seeing as our family just moved away this summer. Through Steam, he sent me a game upgrade. This would allow me to upgrade a trial version of a game I had to the full version. “Merry Christmas!” he said, along with the attachment. For years, I’ve struggled with self-confidence, and I’ve been going through a time of grieving after leaving the best friends I’ve ever had. This boy has been the only person I’ve been truly able to be myself around since moving to the United States. While I lay down in my room, crying and wanting nothing more than some stability, he gave me a gift, not because of holiday tradition obligations, but because he wanted to. He gave me the gift I needed most. Assurance that I was loved.
“It’s the thought that counts,” I said to my brother, “It’s always the thought that counts. The thought is the only thing that’s important.”
I wasn’t able to get my brother to see my point of view. Maybe it’s too much to ask for a 12 year old to see things this way. Maybe he’ll grow up to appreciate owning a minimal amount of things such as I do. I see parents buying gifts worth hundreds of dollars for their kids, and then watch the kid receive it as if it were nothing special. I can’t help but think about the kids in poverty I have worked with who were psyched to receive a few calculators for the classroom, a pair of shoes for their feet, or a pair of sunglasses.
Did I get everything on my Christmas list? No, none of us did. Though I remained the only child who didn’t complain about what wasn’t gotten for them this year. Internally, I can’t complain either. As long as I have people who care about me around, I couldn’t ask for anything more.