He was sickened over not having enough money to buy his teacher a shiny present like the other students. His father had lost his job and it would be a difficult Christmas. Mama pulled him close and whispered gently, 'my sweet boy, the work of the hands is the work of the heart'. They gathered together in the kitchen and baked tiny loaves of Panettone with care. Once cool, each was packaged with scrap ribbon and baker's twine.
The Christmas season can be a stressful one, born of our own expectations around gift giving, entertaining, social schedules, and the pressure to create a perfect day. We lament over what to buy, how little we have to spend, who to invite and what to wear. In this frenetic buzz, we lose sight of the true meaning of the season: love, plain and simple.
Spending cold dark evenings with friends and family, baking cookies, wearing silly sweaters and sipping on spiced cider while music plays in the background. The happy chatter of childhood mates who converge on their hometown for but one week a year. Blaring sirens as Santa rounds the corner in the city fire truck waving and bellowing, "Ho Ho Ho". Children praying that they were behaved enough to please Saint Nicholas.
Instead, tempers flare, money is spent in excess, and feelings are hurt as we forget to focus on compounding joy and worry about the perception of everything being just right. Each year, the moments that mean the most are unplanned and spontaneous, and the gifts are basic and often hand-made. Annie Dillard eloquently stated,
"If you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days."
These words are a welcome dose of perspective this Christmas season. Less is ok, and often superior. The work of the hands is the work of the heart. I remind myself that I can be a success so long as I pour my heart into whatever it is I am doing. This year, I made tiny loaves of Panettone, an Italian Christmas sweet bread. I packaged them with parchment paper, scrap ribbon and baker's twine. Best of all, my effort will be acknowledged before the price tag.