Christmas giving: better than getting

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Posted 12/01/15 (Tue)

By John M. Andrist

I’m addicted. So are you.
We think of addictions mostly as bad habits -- those things that are somewhat self-destructive.
But some of them are good. We tend to call them habits, rather than addictions.
Then again, some addictions are harmless but somewhat stupid. Addictions come in all sizes, depending on your value system.
For instance, some of us are addicted to eating, drinking, drugs, or gambling, None are necessarily bad, but all of them have the propensity for self-destruction.
I smoked as a young man, and was grateful my level of addiction was quite light. My brothers were not that lucky. One had a terrible time trying to quit, and the other managed to quit only when he heard those really bad words -- lung cancer.
There is a fine line between addictions and habits. I’m not positive there is one.
But it is the nature of our existence to be addicted to some pretty good things, as well as some that can be a curse, even leading to our destruction. It is somewhat sobering to realize how much we will all be remembered by our addictions -- both good ones and bad ones.
The season of shopping frenzy is upon us once again, and most of us are now being beset by two of our strongest and most common addictions.
Giving is a wonderful one. Christmas always belongs best to those who find the strongest pleasure out of pleasing others.
But that pleasure is commingled with another addiction, our thirst for toys. At the same time we try to teach our children that it is better to give than receive, we all contribute to strengthening their “getting” addiction. We help them learn the somewhat less holy addiction that Christmas is about getting something. 
We take them to see the store Santas, where they get some yummy treat and delineate all the things they want to be given. And throughout the season we tease them with “only so many days until you get to open your presents!”
We tried to do what was right for our children, according to our own value system. On Christmas Eve we always went first to church, and after eating supper we gathered to sing Christmas carols and read the Christmas story.
But somehow the dessert was the “getting” frenzy of opening all the presents. Children are quick learners, particularly for those things that are pleasurable.
Or perhaps I should say those things we perceive to be the most pleasurable.
Funny, right at this moment I’m really hard pressed to remember any of those fun gifts I have received, but my memory bank is full of things that were fun to give.
All of this, I guess, is a somewhat philosophical journey that really doesn’t lead to any conclusion, because life seems to be more full of conundrums than solutions.
But I seem to always get back to the principle that the most selfish things we can ever learn to do are those things that make life better for others. 
The joy lasts far longer than the tinsel and all the wrapping paper.
Perhaps a better way of saying it is the best of all addictions is the desire to make a difference for others.
I have one other addictive memory. After all the hustle and bustle was over, the gifts were open, the paper was gathered up and stuffed in an overfull garbage can, the children were snuggled in their beds, and I was ready to collapse with my wife on the davenport, the best thing of all was the embrace we shared at that very moment.
It’s the one thing, at least the most lasting thing I could both get and give at the same time.