By Bill Skiff
As we approach the Christmas season, our thoughts turn to the Christmas story, to Santa Claus and—to presents. There are presents and there are gifts. I have discovered over the years that there is a difference.
I remember the Roy Rogers double holster gun set I received from Auntie Ruth. That was a present that touched my heart. Then there was the talk of encouragement my dad had with me before I left for college. That was a gift—one that touched my life.
Later, there was the gift of academic confidence given me by a favorite teacher, the understanding given by a childhood friend when my puppy died, the acceptance received by a classmate of another race and the unconditional love given by a grandparent when I was a teenager and not sure who I was.
These were not presents that came wrapped in Christmas paper and tied with a red ribbon. These were gifts that did not end up at the recycle station, nor were they left out in the rain to rust and disintegrate. These were gifts that traveled with me throughout my life. They were gifts that changed how I felt about myself and others.
This Christmas, let us return these gifts we received from our favorite teacher, a friendly priest, a life partner or a loving grandchild. Let us return their gifts of compassion, tolerance, acceptance and unconditional love.
These gifts will not fill stockings, but they will fill hearts—and they can change the world.
Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.