Simple, Thoughtful Gifts
by Barbara Altman Bruno, Ph.D.

During holiday times we are urged to spend lots of money buying lots of things for the people in our lives. Yet the simplest gifts are often the most meaningful, and best for our and our loved ones' well-being. Here are some possibilities:

People who are busy to start with are often pushed to a frenzy by holiday demands. For your holidays, why not give yourself some free time/s? It is helpful if you book them into your calendar way in advance of the holiday months, so that you do not fill all your days with busy work. Give yourself a free afternoon, morning, or evening with nothing to do except dote on yourself! Sleep late or take a nap; go to a movie or rent one or more; read something trashy or at least nonwork-related; take a long, slow walk or swim; take a bath.

You can give a similar gift to your loved ones. Give them a block of your time to help them with something. You can make them a gift certificate, a coupon (or coupon book), a ticket. Offer baby-sitting, shopping services, household chores, dinner cooked and/or delivered, or whatever you want to give them. If you have loved ones who are older and/or alone, they might prefer to spend time/share a meal or a story with you over anything else in the world.

2. Expertise
Everybody has expertise in particular areas. What of your knowledge and/or wisdom could you give as a gift? For example, my husband is a computer consultant; people are always asking his advice. If you are a gardening whiz, perhaps you could offer help in planning or planting. Or help someone program their VCR, or tune up their car, or rearrange their furniture. For my birthday last year, my best friend helped me organize my paperwork-one of her strong points, but definitely not mine! In case you haven't noticed, though, there are definitely times when expertise is wanted, and definitely times when it is not. Offering it in the form of a gift certificate would allow your offer to be most appreciated.

3. Attention
Parents of young children know how thrilled children are with the attention of an adult. Giving a youngster your undivided attention could be something s/he would remember forever! If someone elderly or ill is in your life, perhaps they just want someone to listen to them (even listen to them complain) for a change. If you have been with a partner for a while, you both may have established routines which handle the busy-ness of life, but ignore the kind of rapt attention you may have given each other in earlier days.

4. TLC
I have seen coupon books made for husbands and wives to give to each other, with coupons for items like a free hug, washing the dishes, dinner out, an evening of romance, a massage, and the like. If there is a special someone in your life, what sorts of coupons would you like to offer? Just imagining the possibilities could make for some delicious daydreams! If you are artistic, computer-savvy, witty, etc., you could have fun designing the coupons, too.

5. Support
You probably know how brave a fat person must be in seeking medical care. And when a person is not feeling well, it is all that much harder to deal with having to educate a health care provider, or advocate for decent and fat-accepting care. And even for people not facing issues of size discrimination, going to the doctor can be frightening, intimidating, and/or confusing. Your going along as an ally of a person seeking medical care can help her/him to recall feedback by the healthcare provider, ask all the necessary questions, and follow the instructions correctly. You can also be of support to someone going somewhere new for the first time, or speaking back against mistreatment, or asking for size-friendly seating. Think of your presence as the present.

6. Mobility
Many fat people, as well as many other people, have difficulty getting out and about. Perhaps they do not drive, or are wheelchair-bound, or are afraid to face public ridicule. Having the support of a friend who can drive, push a wheelchair, open a door, arrange for fat-friendly seating in a restaurant, mall, or movie theater could make all the difference in broadening the world of such a person. And especially during the winter months, when so many places are slippery and even more difficult to navigate than usual!

7. Kindness
Many fat people have been terribly abused-if not by their family members, then by other members of our fat-phobic culture. Many internalize this prejudice and come to believe that they must somehow deserve such bad treatment. They learn how to be nasty to themselves and to other people near them. Fat Admirers are all too familiar with the kind of rejection they face when trying to approach a fat person who has been injured in such a way. And people who are finally developing a social life, sometimes decades later than thin and non-fat admiring people, may treat perceived competition with pettiness and even cutthroat strategies. If somehow there were enough people in the world for you to find the right one for you, would you treat "the competition" differently? If you were actually perfect just the way you are, would you be kinder to yourself? Do you know someone who could benefit from kindness?

8. Service
Holidays, like birthdays, can bring up psychological phenomena known as anniversary reactions." Memories of difficult (or good) past events at similar times of year can reawaken emotions long considered quiet. During the holidays, people can feel much more lonely, left out, and hungry for a meal, warmth, a place to belong. Contributing your service to people who feel such ways is the best way to fill and warm your own spirit, and can take you out of your loneliness, too. And if you are one of the lucky ones, giving your service to others who may be in the hospital, a nursing home, a shelter, or a soup kitchen can enrich your spirit and remind you of your good fortune more than all the jewels at Tiffany's.

9. Forgiveness
As too many fat people and their admirers know, fat prejudice is behind horrible mistreatment of fat people. Some well-intentioned members of our society-and even our family-may consider it acceptable to mistreat fat people "for their own good," or to mistreat fat admirers so that they will "come to their senses" and stop preferring fat partners. Others may use someone's size as an excuse to physically or sexually abuse them for their own purposes, and nobody's good. People who have faced such abuse can carry around its after-effects for a lifetime. They can get help via good psychotherapy, self help and other support groups, size acceptance groups such as NAAFA, and even books and tapes for survivors of abuse. Anger directed at abusers can be very helpful in healing from terrible mistreatment. But remaining permanently angry or otherwise victimized can burden your entire life. The way to finally free yourself, and certainly the best message of the holiday season, is to get to the point where you can forgive your abusers. This may not be anywhere near possible for you now, but it could be an eventual goal. The purpose of the goal is not to let the abusers off the hook. It is to free yourself, to give yourself the gift of a life that is about more than being abused. To enable you to achieve a life which is about your highest purpose on earth. Even if they don't deserve your forgiveness, you do.

Wishing you peaceful, warm, and happy holidays.

Well Being